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The San Francisco Tenants Union is one part of the ShareBetterSF coalition, which advocates for sensible regulation of short-term rentals. They are asking – especially during a pandemic and while knowingly facilitating illegal rentals of housing around the globe and when its principal business is wilfully aiding and abetting operators who wantonly violate zoning and housing laws - how Airbnb can file confidential IPO papers with the United States Securities & Exchange Commission. Sound question.

We have passed the one-year-mark for submissions to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment [DPIE] on proposed changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP]. The changes would see all foreign-owned holiday booking platforms granted open access to NSW housing. Still, not a single submission lodged with the DPIE has been made public.

We are today reminded of an article in the Domain (02 July), in which Airbnb and Stayz representatives were reportedly asking NSW Minister for Better Regulations Kevin Anderson to implement “as soon as practicable” a so-called ‘Code of Conduct’ to give “the reassurance that it – an Airbnb/Stayz rental – is well run”. With Stayz homes available as ‘whole house’ rentals and only a very small proportion of Airbnb listings having onsite staff, our NSW Land And Environment Court notes that those facilitating short-term rentals cannot guarantee adherence with ‘house rules’ or a ‘Code of Conduct’.

Airbnb’s Head of Global Policy Chris Lehane wrote on Twitter recently: “Airbnb really, really doesn’t want guests to host parties…the company has blocked about 250,000 reservations.” At the same time, the BBC has news of just one more Airbnb rental attended by 300 people. And let’s be clear: Airbnb and Stayz have no way of knowing who their clients are or how they will use a property.

If NSW Fire & Rescue are true to their word, and given multiple Coronial recommendations, property used for commercial rentals must meet all building and safety standards. And if NSW Residents’ proprietary rights are to be respected and upheld, Airbnb, Expedia (Stayz) et al must not be permitted to operate in residential buildings or residential communities. The sole concession to this, of course, being a fully accredited B&B operating in a freestanding, single-family dwelling with staff present when clients are ‘in house’.

Unless Members of Parliament and Local Government Administrators totally fail to understand that Airbnb, Expedia (Stayz) and others rely on the use of housing to undercut and undermine our accredited accommodation providers and Tourism Industry members, it is impossible to see how Ministers of the NSW Parliament could bend to the demands of the Short-Term Rental Industry.

‘Party houses are the ‘bread and butter’ of short-term rental operators.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told the Media three days ago: “We think a SEPP like this is somehow a way to sanitise the regions, attack the property rights of landholders and do absolutely nothing to support koalas.” Given Barilaro’s involvement in the gig economy, one correspondent followed up with: “Bloody whingeing about property rights! He has no respect for them.”

It was somewhere suggested that John Barilaro might have retreated to his $5 million Airbnb and is searching for a knife to fall on. This can’t be true; the Deputy Premier’s ‘money-spinner’ is booked every weekend from now until the end of 2020.


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