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“‘Screw you’: The Critical Workers Squeezed Out…”

In yesterday’s SMH, Byron Shire Council Mayor Michael Lyon reportedly said: “Action was needed to keep locals housed.” It is of course Local Councils only who have the legal power to enforce Residential Zoning. Reporter Tawar Razaghi’s article highlights the plight of, amongst many others, paramedics with families who are not only priced out of purchasing a home, but even renting one. Paramedic Benjamin Gilmour said the situation was “dire - My question to our illustrious leaders is: how can we have a situation where paramedics serving their communities cannot afford to live in their communities and have to commute such long distances?” In the same article, local ‘selling agent’ Mark Lycos of North Coast Lifestyle said if there was a property downturn, Byron Shire and surrounds would be the last place to see prices drop… “The best best way I can put it is there is a degree of frustration that my contemporaries’ children can’t even buy their own home…the saddest thing from my perspective.” Mr Lycos’ rental agency lists three houses for rent and 53 homes as holiday rentals; their short-term rentals are also listed on Airbnb, Stayz and other platforms. These holiday rental numbers were not reported.

Latest data from Inside Airbnb (12/21) shows 2,690 homes in the Northern Rivers Region lost to Airbnb. In the Sydney Metropolitan area (01/22), Airbnb had removed 20,879 dwellings from the housing supply. Do remember, these are the figures for one platform only. Members of the NSW Parliament had their rentals listed on 155+ platforms.

In the city of Vancouver (BC), housing activists have had a big win. The City has been ordered to disclose its Airbnb licence database. When a FOI submission was initially submitted, the City withheld information “citing privacy and security reasons”. Another request. Another refusal. The matter ended up going to a full inquiry, with Airbnb and the City of Vancouver colluding and deploying an army of lawyers to argue their case. It was discovered through the freedom of information request that Airbnb had put the city’s housing advocates under mass surveillance and supplied dossiers on the individuals to the City of Vancouver. Local resident, Rohana Rezel writes that instead of demanding that Airbnb cease and desist in their unethical and potentially illegal activities, the City of Vancouver used the data to blacklist activists. The fight is still on to return thousands of homes to the housing market. Rezel singled out for special mention Ulrike Rodrigues, a true personal friend of ours, selfless champion and campaigner who died suddenly just over a year ago.

The NSW-based Chair of ASTRA (Australian Short Term Rental Association) Rob Jeffress has, at today’s count, some 570+ short-term holiday rentals. In July 2021, former ASTRA Board Member, Joan Bird of Snow Escape Holiday Rentals claimed on social media that “someone (had) nominated the convener of Neighbours Not Strangers” for an AO (Order of Australia award). Bird wrote to Pete Smith of Weekenda Holidays - 160 homes operating as holiday rentals - that, in terms of the leaking of the nomination, “credit belongs to ASTRA and Rob Jeffress. Rob sent to me and thanks to social media hopefully we’ve put a stop on it”. A campaign was in fact run across multiple social media pages. Bird followed up with a December 2021 post, wishing the NNS convener et al a ‘Merry Christmas’.

In our last correspondence we advised of Rob Stokes MP’s written advice that he and the Department of Planning “will not be entering into further correspondence” on illegal short-term rentals. Correspondence was sent to Stokes’ replacement, Anthony Roberts MP on 31 December 2021 however, he too has failed to respond to questions about the State Government’s partnership with online booking platforms.

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


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