Cash to ditch short stays!

Cash to ditch short stays!
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

A city in Arizona, USA is implementing an innovative plan to enhance housing availability for locals.

The city’s “Rent Local” program aims to lure Airbnb hosts in Sedona away from the holiday platform with significant cash incentives.

A host can receive up to US$10,000 (about AUD$14,500) to remove their short-term listings from Airbnb and revert to long-term rental.

In an exquisitely ironic twist, the bold move targeting hosts on short-stay platforms has the firm imprimatur of the local tourism industry.

Local tourism operators have been pressuring the council to fix a housing shortage that has driven their workforce out of town. The economic reasoning is that no housing means no workers means no tourism industry. The controversy and its coverage with the local media has inspired the council’s courageous move this month.

The council insists the move will improve housing options for locals in a climate of rent increases and general uncertainty in the real estate market.

The city council will grant US$3000, US$6000 or US$10,000 to Airbnb hosts depending on whether the listing is a room, studio apartment or whole property. Properties qualify if they are rented for a minimum term of 12 months to someone employed in the city – a clear indicator of the council’s socioeconomic objectives.

State election – is anybody listening?

Meanwhile, here in Victoria, we are struggling to get even the most basic of regulations, such as registration of short stays. We have been pressing the government to introduce a cap on the number of short-stay nights per year for each listing, a regulation already adopted in New South Wales and in so many jurisdictions around the world. We have also invited opposition parties to make policy announcements along these lines. So far, only the Greens have done so.

With the election looming, there is an unmissable opportunity for all candidates to stand up and support a policy that delivers these long-overdue and globally proven reforms to short-stay regulations.

Does cladding mean “covering up”?

We Live Here has received a plea from a reader trying to help a family member buy a cladding-free apartment …

“I keep hitting a brick wall with most apartments having a history of flammable cladding or an outstanding unresolved issue with cladding – these are noted in the body corporate minutes either in the contract of sale or in the Section 32. Also, I read with interest your recent article about a similar problem with the curtain walls within buildings which I greatly appreciated.”

“To save time and money, I was hoping that there was a register of buildings with cladding or curtain wall problems. However, contacting Cladding Safety Victoria and the Victorian Building Authority, they quickly went to ground and didn’t want to talk about anything.”

“Do you know someone of authority who could help me in steering clear of a list of buildings that may suffer from flammable cladding and or flammable curtain walls which would greatly help futureproof this first-home purchase?”

We Live Here has discussed this issue with Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) whose website in early 2021 did indeed have a list of Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) cladding-afflicted buildings in Melbourne.

Now, even the official “Cladding Safety Victoria Annual Work Program 2021-22” does not disclose the affected building names or details.

The information publicly available from CSV last year included names and addresses of buildings, the number of apartments, along with photographs of the highest-risk parts of the buildings and fire engineer risk rating summaries. We Live Here has seen a copy of the list, although now it would be out of date of course because a proportion of these buildings may have commenced or completed remediation works.

This diktat leaves apartment buyers like our correspondent in the dark – with the onerous task of scouring the Section 32 pages for each apartment contemplated.

CSV has previously informed We Live Here that its determination that the list should be confidential was based on security concerns.

This is quite frustrating for apartment buyers. The public deserves a solution that balances public security and the right to know the risks associated with what is the largest investment for most.

Yet more disadvantaged, tenants in these properties are not even afforded the opportunity to peruse a property’s section 32.

We Live Here has tried to obtain information from CSV about the pool of money available for remediation since the initial pool of $600 million was announced in 2019.

We participated in discussions with CSV prior to and during the early stages of the remediation program. Since October last year, updates to us from CSV have stopped. We can only wonder what information is not being disclosed – is it too unpalatable to share?

There has been insufficient transparency about the programme from the outset – the public needs more information than has been offered.

How many buildings have been fully funded, partially funded or denied funding? How many buildings cannot obtain insurance? Is there any information about cases of buildings denied funding where the remediation runs to the tens of millions?

With an election not far away, it would be helpful if CSV could release the basic information that apartment owners and residents have a right to know – now. If we have to wait for the CSV annual report – possibly late October – there would be little time for review before the electorate votes.

Update on the reformed committee

Readers will recall that we have been following the saga of an inner-city apartment building that was saddled with a developer-controlled committee.

We have been reporting the tribulations and triumphs of one stalwart lot owner who initiated a revolt and galvanised the residents to create a fairer committee. The committee election campaign delivered some success and now we are keen to hear of reforms that restore equality and fairness.

Of note is that the case has drawn interest and support in senior civic circles. This networking accomplishment will certainly help throw a spotlight on planning decisions that have been swayed too easily by powerful developer interests.

Campaign donations

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