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The Hon Rob Stokes MP (former NSW Planning Minister) used ministerial discretion to introduce (9/4/21) his State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] (Affordable Rental Housing) Amendment (Short-term Rental Accommodation) 2021. This legislation permits access to NSW housing by the likes of Airbnb, Expedia(/Stayz) plus hundreds of online booking platforms. Under Federal legislation – The Rights of Citizens and the Limits of Administrative Discretion“The discretion of the executive branch defines the impact of legislative will upon the citizen and the Court has an independent constitutional duty to identify the basis upon which the rights of citizens may limit that discretion. The result has been an adjustment of the relationship between the judicial and executive branches of government which gives appropriate recognition to the rights of citizens and tightens the limits upon executive discretion, without damage to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.” Ministers – both Federal and State - have a Duty of Care/Do No Harm. The Parliament of NSW’s website confirms that this justiciable obligation is applicable to NSW Ministers’ use of said ‘discretion’.

Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning Peter Phibbs told ABC Radio Hobart it only takes a small number of Airbnb-type rentals to impact rental prices and supply.

Rob Stokes’ SEPP states: “…the use of the dwelling for the purposes of short-term rental accommodation must otherwise be lawful.” Set our beloware questionable examples of how NSW Planning – by way of this SEPP – NSW Fair Trading and Airbnb are apparently colluding in the “Illegal Use” of residential housing. Be assured, this is the tiniest scratch across an enormous, enormous housing problem:

Example 1:

Rowan joined Airbnb in 2014. With 106 listings, he is one of Airbnb’s Top Ten Sydney ‘hosts’. A recent data scrape provided to us by InsideAirbnb shows that two of Rowan’s 106 properties had been issued with a license to operate as short-term rentals. This listing at 187 Kent Street would be in contravention of NSW Land and Environment Court Orders [2007] NSWLEC 88 and [2007] NSWLEC 382. These same Orders apply to this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listing. And this listingCourt Orders also apply to the building in which this listing is located. And this listing. And this listing...

Example 2:

Grant joined Airbnb in 2016. He has 5 listings. According to residents in the building in which this listing is located, the City of Sydney recently issued a ‘cease and desist’ order and fined the operator. Airbnb rentals in this Macquarie Street building, directly opposite the entrance to State Parliament, appear to be in clear breach of the City of Sydney’s Determination of Development Application D/2002/758/C. Airbnb still advertises the unit – availability from 6 July onwards. Residents are watching this for signs of future bookings.

Example 3:

Judy joined Airbnb in 2014. NSW Fair Trading accepted payment and issued Judy with a licence to operate – PID-STRA-33846. The building in which this listing is located is subject to NSW Land and Environment Court Orders. Airbnb rentals are also in clear breach of the City of Sydney’s Determination of Development Application Z96-00542.

The Department of Fair Trading issues licenses for housing to operate as commercial short-term rentals without verifying whether or not such use is lawful. Fair Trading collects a fee of $65 for the first 12 months, and an annual renewal fee of $25.

In 2019 the NSW Minister for Tourism, Stuart Ayres, partnered with Airbnb. The Australian Hotel Association, who had earlier slammed Airbnb’s “sham” tactics, was then muted by a manoeuvre fronted by the State’s Minister for Tourism. The Australian Financial Review’s John Davidson took up the cause:

“If you want to be a successful parasite, you should be careful not to kill your host too quickly… The irony won't be lost on publicans. By helping residents in and around these towns rent out their own homes to tourists, in competition with the very hotels it's promising to renovate, Airbnb has contributed to the decline that it's now bemoaning. The Country Pub Project, in effect, amounts to this: if you can't beat us, join us!”

In light of the recent floods and emergency housing situation, nine days ago, Stuart Ayres MP told the NSW Parliament:

The Government has worked quite hard to ensure that people have had access to temporary accommodation. Those numbers that the emergency services minister went through earlier are extraordinary—the large volume of people who have had to find their way into crisis and emergency accommodation. As the tourism minister, I was really pleased that Airbnb was able to respond straightaway by making properties across the northern part of the State and western Sydney available for people who have been displaced from their home. That is a good example of businesses and corporates stepping up and supporting communities in this time of need.”

And indeed, Deputy Premier Paul Toole announced on 11 March:

“$150,000 for a housing brokerage service enabling the Australian Red Cross to work with private rental companies, such as Airbnb and Stayz, to help connect people with rental homes.”

Are our State Politicians so profoundly ignorant of online booking platforms’ destructive impacts on housing supply and affordability, and the severe impacts on the amenity of neighbouring residents, or are they simply steeped in collusion when it comes to the massive profits sought by the likes of Airbnb, Expedia and their cohort, no matter the impacts on NSW Residents?

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

Neighbours not Strangers


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