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Former NSW Nationals and Labor Leaders, John Barilaro and Jodi McKay, can thank Planning Minister Rob Stokes; their retirement gigs - short-term rentals - could now be 'legal'.

News today that former NSW State Labor Leader Jodi McKay is quitting politics, becoming the fifth State MP to leave Parliament in the last two weeks. Mckay can now quietly move on to managing full time her Kia Ora Lookout Retreat Airbnb *Licence number PID-STRA-583, taking over from husband Stephen Fenn. McKay told reporters in 2019: “My husband gave up his job for me.” Reviews show that Fenn has been managing this Airbnb since 2016. Some twelve months ago, McKay and Fenn added another property to their Airbnb portfolio – 17-19 Argyle Street, Barrington *Licence number PID-STRA-16738. With McKay’s withdrawal altogether from Parliament, perhaps she will be adding her other Ashfield and Waverton properties to her lucrative Airbnb listings.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “A year after John Barilaro painted an idyllic picture of a blissful future retirement spent gambolling about his 105ha country property with his wife of 26 years Deanna and their chickens, those plans now appear to be in tatters following word the former NSW deputy premier has quietly separated from his wife. For weeks the MP has been telling friends his marriage is over.” It’s not clear who is managing the Barilaro’s $5 million Airbnb these days – the Telegraph quaintly refers to the property as “the family BnB”. But whoever it is, perhaps the turmoil within the marriage is why the couple appear to have ‘forgotten’ to register the multi-million dollar property as a short-term rental on the NSW Government’s STRA Planning Portal - *No Licence number is currently visible.

* On Friday, Luke Walton, Executive Director – Housing and Economic Policy NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (NSWDPIE) emailed some NSW residents, reminding them that if they are responsible for letting short-term rental accommodation (STRA), they must ensure the properties are registered before 01 November 2021. The register “applies to residential accommodation (sic – he means dwellings) such as houses, units and terraces. It does not apply to caravans, tents, moveable dwellings, eco-tourist facilities and alpine resorts”. And, “it will be an offence for hosts to let their properties after 1 November if they are not registered before they are let out. Penalties apply”. Walton’s email warns landlords they must comply with new fire and safety requirements by 01 March 2022. Apparently, occupants of short-term rentals can burn away without restrictions for the next four and a half months. One never did see the submission made to the NSWDPIE by Fire and Rescue NSW; did FRNSW really advise the State Government to set aside all Federal Building Codes, Disability Access requirements etc, to facilitate letting all types of residential dwellings for commercial use?

A July 2017 ‘Options Paper’, co-authored by the NSWDPIE and Fair Trading, stated: “In 2014, there were an estimated 216,000 STHL premises in NSW/ACT.” On 30 September 2021, at the behest of NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes MP, Luke Walton wrote: “…the new whole of government short-term rental accommodation (STRA) planning and policy framework will commence on 1 November 2021. The policy allows homeowners to access the economic benefits of STRA whilst creating clear legal obligations for hosts and guests to protect the amenity of residential neighbours. The new government-run STRA Register will be mandatory for all properties advertised for STRA from 1 November 2021. Compliance action will be the responsibility of local councils. The online booking platforms must also ensure that valid registration numbers are provided by all advertised properties. The Department is unable to provide the exact number of STRA properties at this stage as the registration period is still underway…the STRA policy requires the use of a dwelling for the purposes of STRA to be otherwise lawful.”

NSW Local Councils are not receiving funding to ensure that STRA is ‘fit for purpose’. And the last we heard from the NSWDPIE’s Director, Housing Policy, was that compliance with Fire and Safety requirements would be left to the individual landlords – no checks will be undertaken.

Former NSW State MPs had their STRA properties listed on 155+ booking platforms, before their “Illegal use of premises” was barred by the NSW Land and Environment Court. At last count, Jodi McKay/Stephen Fenn had listed short-term rentals on 55+ platforms. Will the Public Servants managing the STRA Register be checking every property across hundreds of platforms to ensure that the Licence numbers listed are valid and the properties compliant? Our bet is: No. They won’t.

In 2014, we had lost 216,000 residential dwellings to commercial short-term rental accommodation platforms. Yet NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes was happy to use ministerial discretion to permit an unlimited number of booking platforms to access all housing across our State. NSW Treasure Matt Kean was responsible for Fair Trading when Parliament was reviewing legislation and converting housing into short-term tourist/visitor rentals. Kean and Housing Minister Melinda Pavey have been making the most of ‘photo ops’ this week. A Liberal Party Media Release today says the Party will spend “$30 million for about 80 new small scale social housing…$20 million for about 45 new homes for large Aboriginal families…” Please, read the rest yourselves. While Homelessness NSW writes there were 37,715 people in NSW who were classified as homeless on Census night 2016.

Residents in a Melbourne apartment building – we’ve omitted the name/address of the property to ensure residents’ privacy – report illegal Airbnb parties in two apartments that were frequented by Covid-positive attendees. The Airbnb mob moved between different apartments on different floors. The Victorian DHHS has ordered said Airbnb clients to stay in the Airbnbs while they isolate for two weeks. There are reportedly 437 apartments in the building and residents want the two Covid-positive illegal Airbnb partygoers ‘sent home’.

The objective of the NSW Parliament, in terms of using housing as Airbnb-type rentals: ‘Allowing homeowners to access the economic benefits of short-term rental accommodation.’ As one intimated this week (see photo): ‘We are the clowns (and) this is our circus.’

#Right2Housing Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers


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