HOBART CITY COUNCIL MAYOR CALLS FOR URGENT, RESPONSIBLE ACTION ON HOUSING
Hobart City Mayor Anna Reynolds wrote on 01 July: “SHOCKING new research has unveiled the failure of state planning policies that have stripped housing supply away from locals. Greater Hobart is overloaded with short-stay tourist properties, with 6.8 times more short-stay rentals (as a proportion of its total private long-term rental market) than Sydney and 4.5 times more than Melbourne! Policy failure has seen hundreds of long-term rental properties being lost in the City of Hobart at a rapid rate over the last years. 47% of Airbnb short-term rental properties in the City of Hobart had a rental history from the long-term rental market. This in-depth new data suggests that the growth of the short-term rental market has had a direct impact on the long-term rental market. The research also shows that loss of just a few properties from the private rental market can move the vacancy rate from 2% where rent rises will be manageable, to 1% where rent rises are likely to be over 10%. The (Tasmanian) State Government’s planning rule that directs Councils to approve short-stay tourist properties has failed. Their deregulation of this sector has had a huge and negative impact on our housing market and needs to be fixed as a matter of priority…Councils need to be able to reject whole residential homes being converted to mini-hotels throughout our suburbs when this style of property reaches a certain level. We need to be able to act when this type of use is negatively impacting the local housing market. Currently we don’t have that power, homes are being lost and people are suffering.”
The ”SHOCKING new research” - Short-Term Rental Baseline Report (June 2022) - was co-authored by Professor Peter Phibbs and Julia Ely (Tenants Union of Tasmania), with data input and scrapings from Murray Cox at InsideAirbnb. Key point:
“We think the main (but not the only) reason that in some key markets the long-term markets have shrunk is because of the increased number of properties that have been moved to short-term listings from the long-term rental market. Whilst clearly many STR dwellings will never have been rented in the long-term rental market, for Hobart we have cross-checked addresses of STR properties with listings of private rental properties to show that the majority of Hobart City STRs have a private rental history.”
Mayor Anna Reynolds’ statement has drawn much feedback on Facebook. One commentator rubbished the writings and research of Professor Phibbs and InsideAirbnb. When links to the commentator’s inclusion on Airbnb’s ‘Host Advisory Board’ and her Airbnb listing were quoted back to her and she was asked to substantiate her remarks, her posts were immediately deleted from Mayor Reynolds Facebook page. In an email to Hobart City Councillors and Members of the Tasmanian Government, on the same date, Merrydith Callegari then wrote that she feels like all levels of government have failed her and other commercial Airbnb landlords through a lack of public housing supply. Ms Callegari’s private Facebook ‘Tasmania Airbnb Host Club’ has 711 members. She went on to write:
“My host community is constantly being blamed, threatened, treated like pariahs, not listened to, and now told that they will be legislated against!! Mayor Reynolds, who in my opinion, has not been a good mayor for Hobart as a place of business, is now wanting you to legislate whole home listings out of business…Many of my 711 members were long term landlords once, and have been so burned by bad tenants that they refuse to ever do it again…Yet council and state government both expect those landlords to go back for more, all while being called “greedy bloodsucking landlords”! …the greatest majority are shocked at this high handed attitude towards people’s private properties, upset at the way str operators are being treated and flabbergasted, like me, that people are being told, “no you can’t use YOUR HOME like that, you must rent it to someone long term and risk it being ruined or just abused and no rent being paid!”
There is no mention made in Ms Callegari’s correspondence of that fact that all the properties in question are constructed, certified, zoned and then sold as residential dwellings to house residents - not commercial hotel facilities.
In a statement, Airbnb’s new public policy manager Michael Crosby voiced his opposition to any Hobart Planning Scheme amendment, telling The Mercury: “We stress that the influence of Airbnb’s community of hosts and guests are infinitesimal when compared to the other many factors that impact the broader housing market in Australia. Crucially, Airbnb notes that the council’s proposal is extremely unlikely to have a substantive impact on the availability of affordable rental housing in the City of Hobart.” In response, Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds wrote:
“Our density of tourist accommodation is off the charts compared to the other capital cities. Urgent and responsible action is needed to rebalance and repair our private rental market.
Michael Crosby has replaced Airbnb’s former Head of Public Policy Australia/New Zealand Derek Nolan. Nolan has moved to Airbnb’s (Tax Minimising) Dublin Headquarters. Crosby’s Linkedin profile has him as Adviser, Parliament of Australia Aug 2014 - Aug 2016, and Adviser, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet Aug 2016 – June 2017 - during the time of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was then that Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull found the property next to their Wunulla Road Point Piper home listed as a $35,000/week short-term rental. The Luxehouses listing didn’t last long; it quickly disappeared from the short-term rental market when the PM and his wife became aware of its presence.
Former policy adviser to Prime Minister Rudd and Gillard, Damian Kassabgi, writes in today’s Byron Echo: “Although housing affordability has become a national issue, there are undoubtedly unique circumstances in our area that are not being adequately addressed. The community has been failed by state and local government representatives over the last decade, who were bystanders (and perhaps complicit) as house prices skyrocketed, as rents went up (by 24 per cent) while the region didn’t adequately increase affordable housing stock for those in need.”
Airbnb has billions of dollars to employ those connected to our land’s top decision makers. In October 2016 we wrote to the Tasmanian Premier, warning him that his policy towards short-term holiday rentals would have profound impacts on housing availability and affordability. Our pleas for action against Airbnb/Expedia (Stayz) et al were ignored. Community representatives fighting for the rights of all to safe, secure affordable housing will push on with our laptops, and hope that someone, somewhere, just may be reading our messages.
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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”.