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Emily Sim, the chief executive of property management for Ray White, was quoted in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald as noting the “low vacancy rate across the country”. And Kelly Seaton, the owner of the Leasing Network in Bateau Bay, is reported as saying that the demand for rental properties on the Central Coast started to pick up in October last year and it is now a crisis. Ms Seato’s agency currently has five homes advertised for tenants. Real estate agents in regional areas with housing shortages are asking prospective tenants to complete a rental application before letting them attend a property Inspection. Leo Patterson Ross, the chief executive of the NSW Tenants Union, said this practice used to be rare but it had taken off in the past six months across regional NSW, including the Central Coast, Illawarra, Hunter Valley, New England and Riverina. We suggested to the SMH’s reporter that some research be done into the number of Real Estate Agents offering homes as short-term tourist/visitor rentals instead of housing for tenants. The quickest of searches today reveals:

L J Hooker Batemans Bay – 2 rentals available90 holiday homes available

First National Hawks Nest – 2 rentals available 74 holiday homes available

Elders Real Estate Yamba – 1 rental available - 76 holiday homes available

First National Jindabyne – 2 sheds available108 holiday homes available

L J Hooker Terrigal – 9 rentals available (sold holiday rental business to Accom) 99 holiday homes available

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We remember well the NSW Tenant Union’s report – ‘Belong Anywhere- to a Government inquiry on short-term rentals, which concluded: “The key finding is that Airbnb does not appear to have had a significant, singular impact on tenants…even in Airbnb hotspots...”

Let’s also not forget that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore gave the issue of short-term rentals priority when, on 05 March 2008, as State MP for the seat of Sydney she asked Parliament:

Given the 2007 Land and Environment Court determination that there is a fundamental incompatibility between a mix of residential and serviced apartments that share the same floor and access points due to the difference in behaviour, living and activity patterns between short-term and long-term occupants:

What consideration has the NSW Government given to the following measures to prevent overcrowding and short-term occupancy in residential apartment blocks:

1. Restricting the number of adults on residential tenancy agreements to two adults per bedroom, with the maximum number of adults allowed equal to two times the number of bedrooms?

2. Banning residential tenancy sub-leases?

3. Setting minimum residential tenancy leases to three months?

The answer provided by the Minister for Fair Trading was clear and concise:

The Office of Fair Trading advises me that:

1. (a) to (c) The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 is currently being reviewed. This review is examining many matters, including the issues around short and long term accommodation and the duration of leases.

2. Changes have already been made to the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2005. These changes amended the model by-laws for strata schemes so that owners must comply with all relevant laws, including planning requirements. This means that owners or occupiers must ensure that a strata residence or apartment is not used for any purpose that is prohibited by law. In addition, a residence or apartment cannot be occupied by more persons than is allowed by law. 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 that 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 a real estate business. (Our emphasis.)

On the very rare occasion that we encounter on a street near Parliament the current Minister responsible for Fair Trading, he literally runs away from us. Zero chance also of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties or any other Residents’ Action Group being consulted on State Government’s collusion with online booking platforms and short-term rental agents. A quick look at the 2019 submissions to NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment shows that Airbnb’s ‘Movement for Deregulation is alive and well and has won Airbnb and hundreds of other online booking platforms access to housing right across our State.

In terms of housing options and affordability, one thing is clear: worldwide, we are shifting towards economies where one is either obviously wealthy or obviously poor. And one is now left in no doubt whatsoever that our State Parliamentarians and senior legislators are very much satisfied that ‘ethics’, in terms of the treatment of our homeless and the proprietary rights of others, has something to do with a county in the east of England.

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


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