Suburban councils take the lead

Suburban councils take the lead
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

The City of Melbourne is falling behind suburban councils in the race to prevent the city being overrun by short stays.

The City of Port Phillip is the most recent council to show that it hears residents’ fears about short stays. The CEO has been instructed to prepare a report on how other councils manage them; with details on how they could be regulated.

This directive was the result of a community petition demanding that the council act to develop and enforce rules on short stay operations in Port Phillip. The investigative report must be presented to the council next month.

Many councils have now introduced basic regulations. Bass Coast, Frankston, Mornington Peninsula and most recently Warrnambool have implemented registration systems for short stay hosts, charging an annual fee. Yarra Ranges Council lobbied the state government to take responsibility for regulating short stays.

The outer suburbs appear to be more advanced on this issue. If the current momentum continues, Port Philip may become the first inner-city council to step up and regulate short stays.

Outside the municipal sphere, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council and Accommodation Association has been lobbying the government about its concerns around the housing shortage for local workers ...

These concerns are backed up by economic data. In a lecture at the University of Melbourne, Professor Greg Clark, an urban expert based in the UK, argued that every successful city in the world is experiencing a housing shortage:

Professor Clark, who reportedly has advised more than 300 cities and 50 national governments, said the housing crisis is particularly acute in Australia in comparison with global benchmarks. In response to the expanding controversy, a Victorian Government representative issued an embarrassing prevarication:

“We have introduced laws to limit disruption caused by unruly short-stay guests in apartments and continue to monitor the wider impacts of the sector.”

Victoria’s short stay laws are among the feeblest implemented by any jurisdiction anywhere. A review of VCAT cases by one of our intrepid correspondents has revealed that there have been 50 cases against short-stay hosts to date – and not one host has been penalised! •

Meanwhile, many residential apartment blocks in Melbourne have been turned into hotels with up to half the apartments in some buildings converted to short stays.

It’s hard to take this non-communicative government seriously when all they offer is to “monitor” the impacts, and then continually postpone a review first promised for 2021, now claiming it will be held “by 2027”.

Also, when will the City of Melbourne follow the lead of suburban councils and register short-stays? We were asking for this years ago.

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