A RIGHT TO HOUSING
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (net worth USD 13.8 billion – about AUD17.7 billion) doesn’t really worry about disruptive house parties – including 177 deadly shootings and counting in the US since May 2019. Chesky has recently said that the ‘lack of new hosts’ is Airbnb’s big worry. Airbnb does not require ID verification at the time of booking and check in, nor does it require actual deposits. And it uses algorithms to penalise landlords who don’t allow “instant bookings” on its platform, thus avoiding screening of those using its services – an open door to all types of illegal and disruptive activity.
Jeremy Fewtrell, Deputy Commissioner, Field Operations, writes that Fire & Rescue NSW’s Fire Safety Branch reviewed the ‘Explanation of Intended Effect’ and other documents relating to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) proposed amendments to the state’s planning system to “better enable ‘agritourism’ and small-scale agricultural development”. The Deputy Commission wrote:
“FRNSW did not need to put in a submission. The proposed changes to the planning requirements for these agricultural businesses is (sic)restricted to the approval pathways for these developments. The developments will still have to achieve compliance with the Building Code of Australia as a requirement of the approval pathway they fall into.”
One thing that is seemingly relatively clear from the DPIE’s proposed changes is that there will be no ‘pathway’ whatsoever to ensure adherence to Federal Building Codes. Plus, in terms of proposed, so-called mandated fire safety standards, Director, Housing Policy DPIE Sandy Chappel said during a recent telephone conversation that any such compliance would be left to ‘trust’. We asked Ms Chappel to confirm this and respond to other concerns; one week later, Ms Chappel’s written response is still outstanding.
According to a spokesperson from the Council for the City of Sydney, where the use of residential housing for the purpose of hotel, motel, serviced apartment, tourist accommodation, or the like, is prohibited, “an existing Development Approval issued under the EP&A Act would prevail anyway, where there is conflict with subordinate legislation e.g. the SEPP (ARH) Amendment (STRA*) 2021". (*Short-Term Rental Accommodation.) And, the City of Sydney “will continue to enforce the law accordingly". In strata, City of Sydney Council “would prefer” that strata managers attempt to deal with illegal short-term rentals in the first instance themselves, particularly where by-laws prohibit the use, however, where they have been unable to do that and where the use is having a negative impact and likely to be unlawful under the proposed new regulatory framework, Council says they will take action. They write that they are doing so in a number of cases at present: Council has issued fines and 'cease use' orders.
In their 2019 submission to the DPIE City of Sydney Council wrote that its “primary concern is that the (DPIE’s) proposed regulatory framework fails to address the impact on housing affordability, particularly on the rental market”. The City of Sydney “remains concerned that the STRA SEPP may inadvertently permit STRA where it is currently prohibited”.
Of course, the NSW Land and Environment Court, with its long record of case law rulings on this issue, gives explicit judgments and orders on the “fundamental incompatibility” of any such ‘mixed use’ – ie, short-term rentals with permanent residents.
The ABC is writing of “desperation growing”, in terms of affordable housing, with current articles on ‘The WA tourist town with just one rental property on the market’, ‘Byron Bay property prices push local workers out of town’, ‘We will die’: This seaside tourist town fears it will collapse unless something is done to create more housing’, etc. Other publications are now following the ABC’s lead, with more stories appearing on the affordable rental crisis and homelessness.
“Too often being homeless is considered a personal and moral failing, when it’s actually a structural and political problem” – Leilani Farha,UN Special Raconteur on the Right to Housing.
But when – like Airbnb – you are a USD PR/Policy juggernaut and your Global Head of Policy & Communications is a self-proclaimed ‘Master of Disaster’, with a background as a political adviser and an alleged ‘reputation for dirty tricks’, nothing is beyond the realms of possibility. And let’s not forget that Airbnb’s campaign in NSW was led by former State Parliament and Local Government insider, Brent Thomas. Mr Thomas’ Facebook Friends are a virtual ‘who’s who’ of Parliamentary decision makers and influencers.
At last count, Airbnb had 33,630 homes listed across the Sydney Metropolitan Area; 8,074 in the City of Sydney council area. The City of Sydney’s Health and Building investigator may need some help tracking down and penalising Airbnb landlords’ “illegal use of premises”.
#Right2Housing Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers