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It’s Saturday, and many tenants who have been given notice by their landlords thanks to our ‘no grounds’ evictions, or those left homeless by catastrophic weather events, will be desperately searching for a home to rent. Up in Bundaberg, Real Estate Agent Scott Mackey told the Courier Mail this week: "... a growing population and rising rents means it's time for the region to embrace high-density housing.” Mr Mackey and his family members also run 35 Airbnbs between them, while saying the housing shortage and compounding factors are leading to higher rents than ever.

In the NSW Legislative Assembly, the Minister for Fair Trading is on the record answering the Member for Sydney’s questions on Real Estate Agents’ short-term rental of housing:

“Limits on occupancy and usage of dwellings are not regulated under Fair Trading legislation, but fall under the relevant planning laws. Real estate agents are generally responsible for arranging leases of (strata) dwellings or apartments, and are licensed under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002. The Office of Fair Trading would examine any improper or questionable actions undertaken by a real estate agent, including actions that would be in breach of the consumer protection provisions of the Act or the strata or tenancy legislation. Penalties for breaching the legislation include a range of disciplinary actions from a reprimand to cancellation of a licence and disqualification from involvement in the real estate business.”

We cannot find any record of Agents being penalised under the NSW Property, Stock and Business Agents Act for converting housing into short-term rentals. With immigration and foreign students absent from the housing market, and many of those who were in Australia at the start of the Covid pandemic returning to their home countries, why indeed are there such drastic challenges for those seeking rental accommodation? We’ve returned to look at a very small cross-section of real estate agents to consider their ‘rental’ activity and what these actions might be having on housing supply. Here’s what’s advertised today:

Lois Bucket Ballina - 5 available rentals 53 holiday rentals

First National Tweed Heads - 5 available rentals 42 holiday rentals

Elders Real Estate Yamba - 4 available rentals 78 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Kingscliff - 3 available rentals 121 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Lennox Head - 1 available rental 19 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker South West Rocks - 3 available rentals 79 holiday rentals

Ray White Tea Gardens - 3 available rentals 99 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Tea Gardens - 1 available rental 19 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Forster/Tuncurry - 1 available rental 39 holiday rentals

First National Tuncurry - 2 available rentals 147 holiday rentals

Di Jones Central Coast - 15 available rentals 66 holiday rentals

Ray White Central Coast - 1 available rental 92 holiday rentals

First National Kiama - 11 available rentals 75 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Batemans BayNo available rentals 77 holiday rentals

Batemans Bay Real Estate - 6 available rentals 15 holiday rentals

LJ Hooker Sussex Inlet - 1 available rental * 70 holiday rentals (* @ $2,660/week)

Whale Coast Realty Narooma - No available rentals 74 holiday rentals

Ben Bate Real Estate Narooma - No available rentals 15 holiday rentals

Raine and Horne Jindabyne - 4 available rentals 67 holiday rentals

How do legislators – and journalists – fail to acknowledge and act upon these figures, which are published and available for all to see? And why did the Tenants Union of NSW lobby on behalf of Airbnb during a Parliamentary Inquiry into short-term holiday rentals, writing:

“…there appears to be very little impact on the vacancy rate…we acknowledge the impact the growth in short term letting has had on communities in other parts of the world, but from our investigation the same does not appear to be true here…(and) even if Australia is the ‘most penetrated’ market, there is actually not yet so much activity on Airbnb that would impact the private rental market.”

One can only feel desperately sorry for those who are scrambling to put a roof over their heads and the heads of their children and loved ones. Why is this incredibly serious matter left to fester, year after year? Money. That’s why!

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