AS THE NUMBER OF IDLE PROPERTIES IN AUSTRALIA TICKS PAST A MILLION…EXACTLY WHAT ARE OUR COUNCILLORS


A National Homelessness Conference was held in Canberra this week. Conference organiser, AHURI (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute), wrote that it was an “opportunity to engage directly with the nation’s political leaders, as well as each other on this important topic”. In an interview on ABC Radio National yesterday, AHURI’s Managing Director Dr Michael Fotheringham was joined by Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher. Hatcher described the housing “crisis” in his area – 500 homes lost in fires, covid lockdowns, flooding – which has seen “house prices doubling in the last two years, rental prices going up 30-40% in most areas, and a lack of supply (with) people moving from the cities down here…unfortunately we lead the State when we talk about ‘ghost’ houses…we need a lot of those short-term rentals to house the tourists that come here…we want to encourage them to continue”.


The ABC reported on 23 June: South Coast council begs holiday home owners to rent our properties as housing crisis escalates.” Hatcher said council’s letter was aimed at those who might have multiple investment properties and might be using them for short-term accommodation to just think about the community long term and they could “free up one of those or, whatever they could do…anything to get a bit more supply on the market for us”. Hatcher reports that they’ve had a “great response” 40 homes had come back onto the market. People had offered to rent homes for 3-6 months. A further 10 homes had been returned to DCJ (District Community Services) which have been added to social housing. (No explanation was offered as to why these homes had previously been lost from the social housing supply.) When asked about housing for local residents/workers, Hatcher said his rent had gone up over $200/week. And while it was great to see the area being promoted and people visiting and spending, there’s “no space for staff; council has many vacancies on our books but (it) can’t house people who want to come and work…same in the hospitality industry”. Eurobodalla Council has written to State Government with three main requests; all have been rejected. Council will “continue to pressure” Parliament. Listen here. ABC Radio’s Hilary Harper goes on to discuss short-term rentals with AHURI’s Michael Fotheringham.


The Eurobodalla Council area has 1,027 Active Airbnb Rentals

NSW PARLIAMENT:

On Tuesday, the Member for Summer Hill, Labor’s Jo Haylen, moved that the House 1) notes that we have a right to safe, secure and affordable housing, and 2) notes New South Wales is facing a housing and rental crisis with Sydney rents now counting for 70% of the median income and, 3) calls on government to act now and ease the pressure on housing by urgently building more public and affordable housing and ending unfair no grounds evictions. The Member then retook her seat in Parliament, without mentioning her Caves Beach Airbnb rental for which, since we first advised of the commercial activity on 20 June, the Hon. Member suddenly appears not to be taking bookings. Haylen and her spouse’s Airbnb profile states that they “Joined in June 2011”.


(Former) Minister Stuart Ayres’ Ministerial Diary Disclosure Summary for the period 1 January-31 March 2022 has been published. On 22 March, Ayres met with Friends of Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF). Topping the list of attendees: AU/NZ Airbnb. The TTF’s Chief Executive Officer Margie Osmond appeared before a parliamentary inquiry into short-term rentals in 2016.


The TTF’s submission called on the Government to deregulate traditional accommodation, “to make it more competitive. This should be the focus rather than imposing the same cumbersome regulations on short-term holiday letting accommodation that would stifle the sector’s growth”. Quoted: ‘Typical short-term holiday letting process’ – “Setup an account and advertise couch, spare bedroom or home on the global market.” The TTF noted that their “cumbersome regulations” required:

  • Setup a registered business with the necessary systems to abide by privacy laws,

  • Undergo environmental impact statements and submit development approvals,

  • Register permits for business activity and local council permits,

  • Abide by consumer laws and labour laws,

  • Payment of superannuation and taxation,

  • Undergo occupational health and safety reviews,

  • Apply for food licensing and liquor licensing,

  • Ensure premises abide by accessibility, fire and building standards,

  • Ensure premises, staff and guests are covered by relevant insurance.

The TTF Submission to Parliament: “Problems of excess regulations and bureaucratic red tape, particularly in the investment and development approval processes, restricts the ability of the private sector to respond to visitor accommodation needs as well as remain competitive in the face of new and existing market entrants. As tourism is a global industry, this also restricts Australia’s ability to compete internationally.”


Now the NSW Government has set up a system whereby, for an initial $65 fee – ongoing annual renewal fee of $25 - the Department of Planning will issue a license to operate a commercial short-term rental in any home across the State.


Between 1992-2011, Christopher Brown led two of the nation's most high-profile CEO-based industry associations – the Tourism & Transport Forum and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. In 2008, just as Airbnb was starting up, Chris Brown told the Australian Tourism Exchange that “Federal and State Governments had failed tourism”. Brown was quoted by Law Firm ClaytonUtz in its newsletter, under ‘christopher_brown_ttf_unlocking_opportunity-planning_reform_in_nsw_and_its_national_implications. (That page has been pulled from the internet.):

“In the parallel strata reform process, we will continue to investigate how councils could be mandated to enforce residential planning, zoning or approval to prevent unauthorised short-term commercial letting of accommodation. The proliferation of illegal serviced apartments is a huge problem for legitimate tourism accommodation providers, and there remains

insufficient scrutiny of this damaging practice.”

Under current leadership, the TTF now receives sponsorship funds from Airbnb: “Many thanks to our wonderful Event Partners” – Airbnb. It might seem to others that payments such as these guarantee ongoing access to Ministers.


APPOINTMENT OF JOHN BARILARO AS SENIOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT COMMISSIONER TO THE AMERICAS:


During the Inquiry into John Barilaro’s appointment to the Americas, (transcript HERE) we heard Labor’s Daniel Mookhey address John Barilaro:


“Minister, you’re aware that the Ministerial Code of Conduct says that information gained through

ministerial service should not be used for private benefit. Are you aware of that?


Barilaro responded:

“Yes. Absolutely.”

The MINISTERIAL CODE OF CONDUCT states:


“A Minister, in the exercise or performance of their official functions, must not act dishonestly, must act only in what they consider to be the public interest, and must not act improperly for their private benefit or for the private benefit of any other person.


A Minister must not…make or participate in the making of any decision or take any other action in relation to a matter in which the Minister is aware they have a conflict of interest.


A conflict of interest arises in relation to a Minister if there is a conflict between the public duty and the private interest of the Minister, in which the Minister’s private interest could objectively have the potential to influence the performance of their public duty….any of the possible decisions or actions…could reasonably be expected to confer a private benefit on the Minister or a family member of the Minister…”. And on it goes.


A November 2016 SMH article noted that while John Barilaro had declared his/and wife’s ownership of the property near Braidwood, he had failed to declare that they had been hiring out the ‘palatial multi-million dollar house via Airbnb and other accommodation websites for thousands of dollars a night’.


As we mentioned in our last Media Release (02/08/22), when our Residents Action Association was last granted a meeting with representatives from Small Business NSW, we voiced our doubts that our presentation and requests for action on short-term holiday rentals would be met with a favourable response, given the Minister responsible was John Barilaro.


Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan 2030 (08/18) - Premier Gladys Berejiklian / Deputy Premier John Barilaro


(August 2018 – Airbnb-type rentals had been judged “fundamentally incompatible” with permanent residents

– “Illegal Use of Premises”.)


Quoting the document co-authored by Barilaro:


  • “The Visitor Economy Index…Leading data sets…Measures…Accommodation bookings e.g. Airbnb & Hotels”

  • “Improved infrastructure – Improve the supply of visitor accommodation against projected demand by working with the private rental sector – Supported in Principle – Agree on a NSW Government policy position on short-term holiday letting – Department of Planning & Environment / Department of Finance, Services and Innovation – Ongoing”

  • “Invest in infrastructure – Agree a NSW Government policy position on short term holiday letting”

  • “Improve the supply of visitor accommodation against projected demand by working with the private rental sector – Supported in principle – Destination NSW will work with short-term holiday letting providers to explore ways to improve data quality and collection for the short-term holiday letting sector. Where possible, this data will be incorporated in the Visitor Economy Index – Destination NSW / Department of Finance, Services and Innovation – June 2019”

The Future of Airbnb Made in Sydney (02/19)

(Quoting the document – Barilaro, the Minister responsible)


“Airbnb first set up an office in Sydney I 2012 to attract more Australian hosts and guests to its platform. Back then, the home-sharing company only had about 5,000 Australian properties listed on its site. Now it boasts more than 150,000 local listings…Australia is the most penetrated market for Airbnb,” and “Australians account for the largest percentage of bookings made on our platform globally”.

- - - - -

John Barilaro is perhaps our State’s most high-profile Airbnb operator. That said, the property is listed under host ‘Deanna, Barilaro’s now estranged wife.


In line with details given ‘under oath’ at Monday’s Parliamentary Inquiry, Barilaro confirmed that upon the resignation of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian (01 October 2021) her received a telephone call from Minister (Rob) Stokes: “I think at that time he was nominating to be leader of the Liberal Party…After that conversation I pretty much made up my mind that I think I am going to leave and on the Monday (04 October 2021) I made the announcement.” Barilaro made direct reference to Stokes nine times on Monday.


In April 2021 the Hon Rob Stokes, using ministerial discretion, published changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy…(Short-term Rental Accommodation). On 29 October 2021, Stokes amended this SEPP; it became effective on 01 November 2021. The aim of the SEPP: “to support short-term rental accommodation as a home sharing activity...”


Barilaro was also asked to confirm that he had referred to other individuals as possible candidates for Trade and Investment Commissioner positions, one being the India posting. It was established that former State Labor Leader Jodi McKay was referred by Barilaro. The Nationals Wes Fang attempted to use Barilaro’s nomination of McKay as a “completely apolitical decision” and by putting forward someone from the Opposition – “like Ms McKay – that he (did) so, given that he obviously wants to have the best people in the role, despite what their political persuasions are”. McKay had by then left Parliament. Like Barilaro, McKay operates (two) Airbnb premises – they are listed under her husband’s name.


John Barilaro is scheduled to appear again tomorrow before the Senate Inquiry. Journalists are following and forensically dissecting that which has come before the Inquiry and through the Parliament. Alterations to the SEPP, which affects access to safe, secure, affordable housing for individuals across our State, and how those alterations came to pass, will not, unfortunately, be a focus of Committee Members.

- - - -

NSW Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts MP, must immediately rescind Rob Stokes’ Affordable Rental Housing (Short-term Rental Accommodation) SEPP.


Local Councils must be mandated to enforce residential planning, zoning or approval to prevent short-term commercial letting of housing. The proliferation of these properties is a huge problem for housing affordability and availability, for the living conditions of neighbouring residents and for legitimate tourism accommodation providers.


The NSW Government must refer Airbnb, DestinationNSW and other online platforms to the ACCC, when and where the platform/s are aiding and abetting the “Illegal Use of Residential Dwellings”.

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