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COVID-19, a Ministerial Directive dealing with Restrictions on Gathering and Movement, and this morning the media is awash with reports of Don Harwin and his holiday home.    In May last year, NSW State Minister, the Hon (Don) Donald Harwin MLC, purchased a Pearl Beach holiday home, paying  $1.29 million.  The dwelling in Diamond Road Pearl Beach is zoned Residential.  The Hon Member has reportedly travelled to his holiday home during a pandemic, and the local real estate agentwhich has 62 properties listed as holiday rentals, 26 of them with Airbnb, has Don Harwin’s property listed as a short-term holiday rental, at $515/night…up to 8 persons in this 3-bedroom home.   Harwin does list the property on the Register of Disclosure by Members to Parliament, but there doesn’t appear to be any disclosure of income received from short-term rentals.  

01 February 2019, McGrath Real Estate offices in Mosman, Neutral Bay, Chatswood and Northbridge ‘switched allegiance’ to Di Jones Real Estate.  And in July last year, Di Jones was spruiking the benefits for their clients choosing short-term letting over long-term tenants.  This 50-second video states:  ‘great if the place is furnished’, ‘gives owners the flexibility to use the property for themselves or their family through the year’, ‘generally 80-90% occupancy rates’, ‘returns are really good – about 50% more than can be expected from a long-term lease’.  Di Jones partnered with Sydney-based Airbnb management firm ‘Hometime/Hey Tom.  Di Jones representatives reassured that Hometime was the only small business that had a ‘superhost’ status - listings have a ‘priority placing on Airbnb’s website…better ratings, better occupancies, better rates’.  In an article in The Real Estate Conversation, a Di Jones representative said:  “Airbnb and Stayz are not going away.”   Two weeks ago, Di Jones CEO Rob Ward posted a message:  “We are not changing what we are doing, we are changing the way we do it.”

Di Jones Real Estate now appears to be suspending its Airbnb business:

“We are thrilled to offer any future client who is currently converting from Airbnb to permanent management a new offer.  This includes, a commercial-grade sanitisation, so that potential tenants can move in with confidence and a premium market package for no upfront cost.  Once we have secured a qualified tenant, you will be required to pay a one off cost of $495.00 instead of a letting fee.”

On 13 December 2017, at the behest of the then Minister for Better Regulation, a representative from NSW Fair Trading (Ref 9201162) wrote to us requesting a list of real estate agents and the properties each agent was advertising for holiday accommodation.  The verbal request received was for “examples of collusion between real estate agents and online booking platforms”.  As requested, Neighbours Not Strangers responded to Ministers of the NSW Parliament and the Department of Fair Trading. Since providing the information requested, Neighbours Not Strangers has been excluded from all further governmental meetings and discussions.

Amara’ is a “sun drenched Byron Beach Pad” in Beachside Drive, Suffolk Park.  It too is zoned Residential.  The home is listed on Airbnb and other online platforms. Neighbouring residents write today:  “7 Spanish backpackers/students are still in the holiday let…Their pattern is to sleep until midday, go to the nearby beach for 2 hours, then the party starts.  Arrived by 2 Ubers from Sydney, the Uber drivers stayed overnight before leaving…”

Wall Street Journal:  “The hottest stock-market debut of the year.  A value of more than US$50 billion.”  Last Tuesday the WSJ reported that Airbnb’s valuation has plummeted from $31 billion to $18 billion at its $1 billion financial disclosed Monday.  

Why are Airbnb and its ‘hosts’ continuing to list homes and apartments for rent?  This isn’t part of Airbnb’s marketing gloss for COVID-19 responders and can only be though of as:  1) Non-essential travel, 2) In breach of “stay at home” orders, and 3) Endangering the lives of neighbours.

Footnote:  Our non-funded residents group endeavours to update recipients with information sourced from credible publications, organisations and trusted community activists.  Should any of the links we provide fail to take you to the articles and individuals quoted, please contact us immediately.  Media outlets can, without notice, alter the content of their articles.


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