SHORT-TERM RENTAL BEDLAM
Remember we wrote to you with details of the Airbnb that hosted a ‘hens party’ for a group of women from Brisbane, the group that brought COVID to Byron before Easter and was responsible for a partial lockdown and cancellation of Bluesfest 2021? That was the Airbnb Byron Beachouse at 1/82 Alcorn Street, Suffolk Park. At the time, we twice wrote to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and asked why the house wasn’t listed on the State Government’s list of reported Covid infections and why 30 visitors were permitted in an illegal holiday rental. Those questions weren’t answered. Now, if you hunt around on their website, the Byron Beachhouse has changed their advertising to “no hens or bucks parties and no schoolies”. On a recent Sunday night the blow-ins were yet again having a party. Neighbours rang Byron Police at 10:30pm. The Police issued a Noise Abatement Directive that shut down the party. The following morning Police rang the neighbours and volunteered how to lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading. The local Police also advised that holiday rental complaints are one of their ‘bread and butter’ issues and they are thoroughly “sick of them”. Well they might be, with some 6,459 Airbnb listings plus around 2,713 Stayz rentals in the Northern Rivers region. Byron’s short-term rental plague prevails, despite pandemic restrictions.
And does everyone in the Media and Government take Airbnb & Co at their word? Seems our Media Outlets all swallow and repeat Airbnb’s mantra, no matter what. Remember the press releases from Airbnb about a ‘Global Party Ban’ and CEO Brian Chesky’s promise to verify the identity and details of all 11 million platform users by the end of 2020 - a repeat of their empty 2013 announcement? Then there are Airbnb’s multiple, multiple guarantees about being in the business of ‘Trust’. Airbnb has a whole ‘news room’ producing worthless guarantees (or straight out falsehoods), but there’s not a single Airbnb ‘Anti-Party Squad’ anywhere.
Brisbane City Council appears to have made an absolute shemozzle of what is a certified ‘approved use’ at 21 Dock Street South Brisbane. Be patient, as this could happen to anyone in strata in any State: There was a complaint to Council about short-term rentals in the building, which rendered VOID the building’s insurance – a breach of Development Approval. Thirty of 67 Lot Owners then lodged an application to Council to run short-term rentals. Some of those 30 agreed to hook up with the short-term rental mob only when, as one resident writes: “Greed got to them and they joined the band wagon.”
Council then approved a checkerboard use in the building – short-term rentals amongst the permanent residents (judged “fundamentally incompatible” in NSW for obvious reasons). The short-term rental Lot Owners found that Council had extinguished their original proprietary rights; they could no longer live in or lease their apartments under a residential letting agreement. And so those who did not really want to move out or evict long-term tenants just continued on as per usual - what is now an ‘unlawful use’. Yes, this again sees the building’s insurance rendered VOID. Resident Owners lodged a complaint with Council. Of course, those who pushed for short-term rentals believed that they would have the option of both types of occupation. How wrong they were…
One of the Brisbane short-term rental Lot Owners then listed their apartment for sale; interested buyers were told the property could not be used for permanent residential occupation and the seller reportedly lost two high-value offers. The vendor returned to Council and lodged another application, to convert the Lot in question back to its original certified use – permanent residential occupation. Once the revised Development Approval was reissued, again for permanent occupation only, the apartment sold for $100k more than what was offered for a short-term rental. Strata Committee Members are working constantly, attempting to enforce the multiple, different approved types of use within the building. Currently only one Strata insurance company will cover the building and the insurer demands regular reports, confirming whether or not all Lots are compliant with their approved use. Some long-term residents who had opted and received approval for short-term rentals now don’t wish to leave – COVID turning their plans for higher, quick returns on their heads. Neighbours are left with these residents breaching designated approvals and the terms of their building insurance. Great work Brisbane City Council! Residents are in bedlam, and no one can assume their residential title deeds will be respected.
In March 2021 we contacted NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers AFSM about the release of their PLANNING FOR BUSH FIRE PROTECTION – A guide for councils, planners, fire authorities and developers. This 116-page document was issued subsequent to the closing date of a request for submissions from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) a propos amendments to planning instruments which would sees the use of any type of any Class 1(a) or Class 2 (National Construction Codes) residential dwelling open for commercial short-term rental to tourists/visitors. The DPIE subsequently called for further submissions, this time permitting any type of structure on rural property to also be rendered available as commercial short-term tourist/visitor accommodation. (Details via this link.) A senior representative from the RFS called this week and apologised for the delayed response. Yes, the DPIE did seek feedback from the RFS and, “yes, the RFS responded to Government”. In Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ amended State Environment Planning Policy [SEPP] on short-term rentals, there is no incorporation of official RFS Bushfire Attack Levels & Complying Development Certificate – zero. Short-term rental operators can do what they want in NSW, thanks to Rob Stokes and NSW Public Servants.
Andrew Giles, Federal Shadow Minister for Cities and Infrastructure told the Guardian Australia’s Political Editor Katharine Murphy:
“I think the Australian people don’t want to see sort of ‘Trump Lite’ infect our politics. I think that’s really concerning for anyone who’s interested in the operation of our democracy and anyone who cares about how good government is done by our Public Servants working with Ministers who are, in a real sense, accountable for the administration of our duties…”
Professor Peter Phibbs, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sydney and his team have released important research on the impacts of Airbnb on housing – Challenging the Discourse around the Impacts of Airbnb through Suburbs Not Cities: Lessons from Australia and COVID-19. Using COVID as a natural experiment, a case study of Hobart found that a reduction in the supply of Airbnbs, the most popular of platforms offering short-term rentals, impacted the rental market through changing vacancy rates and causing a subsequent reduction in rents. In addition, the researchers take aim at Airbnb and others who often claim short-term rentals make up such a small percentage of housing across an entire city that it is impossible for this activity to have a negative impact on housing. “Supporters of short-term rentals who use the small fraction argument are engaged in ‘strategic misrepresentation'".
Claire Colomb, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at University College London, joins Leilani Faha and documentary filmmaker Fredrik Gertten to discuss the rapid rise of Airbnb in 16 cities across Europe – going from zero presence in 2010 to 18,000 listings in Amsterdam, 26,000 in Berlin, 28,000 in Barcelona, 48,000 in London and just over 60,000 in Paris in a six-year period. The impact of Airbnb on cities is considerable – from a decline in long-term housing stock, an increase in rents and overall living costs, to the dominance of tourist amenities that are replacing community services for long-term residents. Now valued at USD100 billion, the multi-national Airbnb is flexing its might, increasingly sitting at political tables, wielding resources and influences. But City governments like Berlin, Barcelona and Madrid and others are pushing back – finding ways to protect their cities and those who live there.
In the decade during which many NSW residents have written and lobbied on short-term rentals, presented submission and requested meetings with Ministers of the NSW Parliament, not a single meeting has been granted, nor have we been permitted an open voice on the official Government record. Planning Minister Rob Stokes, if he ever does manage to see our correspondence and documents, sends all to a senior Public Servants, who repeatedly refer us to the DPIE’s Director of Housing Policy…who doesn’t respond to the questions posed.
We’ve said it before: We believe what is being repeatedly demonstrated is nothing short of contempt for the fundamental #Right2Housing and the proprietary rights of NSW Residential Title Deed holders.
#Right2Housing Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers