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We Live Here

12 May 2017

Short-term letting must be regulated

The NSW government has swept aside the recommendations of a parliamentary report and announced a new consultative process to decide how short-stays will be regulated.

The discarded report had recommended a massive increase in short-term holiday rentals in apartment buildings. But the NSW Minister for Planning and Regulation and the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, in a joint statement announced on Thursday, April 20, said that “broader engagement with the industry and the community was needed”, and that they were “focused on finding a common ground that effectively addresses the concerns with everyone involved.”

The ministers said: “The rights of residents who live near these properties must be considered too.”

We hope that the Victorian Government will now follow suit.

Since We Live Here was founded 16 months ago we have been advocating for a level playing field for all the stakeholders involved in the short-stay debate.

But the Victorian Government’s “Mickey Mouse” Bill introduced last year protected the rights of short-stay operators at the expense of residents who have chosen to make apartment living their lifestyle.

After intense lobbying by We Live Here and recognition by opposition parties that residents were being ignored in the debate the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-Stay Accommodation) Bill 2016 was defeated in the Upper House.

It is now the subject of a parliamentary enquiry, currently being conducted by the Environment and Planning Committee.

Two public hearings (March 24 and April 13) were held and about 100 written submissions were received. The parties invited to attend the public hearings as witnesses were: Airbnb, Brent Thomas; Australian Hotels Association, Paddy O’Sullivan; Boutique Stays, Bev Constable; City of Melbourne; St Bedes Owners Corporation, Henk van Leeuen; Holiday Rental Industry Association, Trevor Atherton; Matrix Apartments, Bronwyn McAsey and Neil Ackerman; OC Pride, Antoinette Hall; Southbank Residents Association, Tracey Allen and Dan O’Keeffe; Stayz, Michelle Chaing; Strata Community Australia (VIC), Sharon Lameris, Michael Nugent and Gregor Evans; Tourism Accommodation Australia (Victorian Branch), Dougal Hollis; Victorian Accommodation Industry Association, Paul Salter; and We Live Here, Barbara Francis, Marshall Delves and Tom Bacon.

All stakeholders were represented and had equal time to present their cases.

The committee is required to report back to Parliament by May 11. The government will then have six months to respond.

Transcripts are available at www.parliament.vic.gov.au/epc/article/3191

Snapshots from the hearings:

Trevor Atherton and Paul Salter each promoted the self-styled Holiday Rental Code of Conduct, which has been in place for five years without any measurable effect. The Parliamentary panel did not appear satisfied with the lack of any data supporting the “code”.

Brent Thomas from Airbnb caused a stir when he disparaged apartment-dwellers as people who “could not afford to buy a house”. Mr Thomas was also asked how many multi-listing operators used his Airbnb platform but could not answer.

A Matrix Apartments (Southbank) director then testified that it operated more than 20 listings on Airbnb.

Tom Bacon from We Live Here presented a volume of hard data about the positive effect of short-stay regulation on tourism. Since San Francisco, London, Paris and New York introduced regulation, tourism numbers and total spend have risen substantially.

All these major international cities have introduced minimum stays of between 30 and 120 days as well as “one-host-one-home” regulations. Mr Bacon argued strongly in favour of regulation to protect and enhance the tourism sector in Victoria.

Similar views were also expressed by Tourism Accommodation Australia.

Tourism and Transport Forum Australia made a written submission in support of Tourism Accommodation Australia asking the government to empower owners’ corporations to regulate short-stays.

Our submission included graphic video evidence of the enormous, costly impact on wear and tear of short stay business operations, including:

  • Moving 80 tonnes of short-stay laundry through lifts;
  • 50,000 suitcases in lifts every year; and
  • Double the use of doors and lifts by short-stay guests.

We are calling on Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz and Planning Minister Richard Wynne to:

  • Note the lead taken by NSW;
  • Follow the evidence that is being presented at the inquiry; and
  • Start listening to all stakeholders, including the 200 buildings represented by We Live Here.

So far, the Victorian Government has only thought about the issue of unruly guests and hasn't offered any workable solutions for that. However, the much bigger issues of community, amenity and unfair wear and tear costs have been ignored.

We encourage as many of you as possible to become involved and: HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

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