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Tourism sector calls for short-stay day limit

Tourism sector calls for short-stay day limit
Sean Car

Tourism industry groups want Victoria to follow other states, including NSW, and impose a limit on the number of days per year that properties can be let as short stays.

The Victorian Tourism Industry Council and the Accommodation Association of Australia have each called on the Victorian government to create a level playing field for all operators.

Accommodation Association chief executive Richard Munro said while Victoria had among the most short-stay listings in Australia, there was little government oversight. “It’s largely unregulated,” he said.

In NSW, 180-day limits have been implemented in numerous coastal and regional districts and much of Sydney. Victoria is yet to even contemplate this basic regulation, leaving apartment residents exposed to well-documented, ongoing issues caused by short-stays.

The Accommodation Association, which represents caravan parks, regional motels and hotel chains, is also pushing for the short-stay sector to meet similar safety standards to commercial operators, including large hotels.

It’s fascinating to see the tourism sector openly berate a state government that got itself very cosy with Airbnb, purportedly to “boost tourism”.

Four years ago, the short-tenured Trade and Innovation Minister, Mr Dalidakis admitted to Parliament that “I visited Airbnb’s office [in San Francisco] in a visit to North America”. (Hansard, August 7, 2018, page 46). It was earlier reported by The Age that Premier Daniel Andrews had visited Airbnb in San Francisco in 2015 as part of an Emergency Management Victoria initiative.

After waiting four years for a review – four more years?

We continue to hope for an epiphany in Spring St – the irony of having the tourism sector attack the government’s inaction on short-stay accommodation.

Alas, elevating inertia to an art, the government this month quietly announced that again it would defer its review of short-stay legislation – to an undefined date sometime in the next four years.

In 2018, the government committed to a “post-implementation review” in 2020, as a sop to the broad opposition. It was tantamount to admitting that the legislation was deeply flawed.

COVID intervened and the promised review was delayed until 2021, and then re-promised “maybe” for 2022.

This month the Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, speaking to an adjournment action in parliament, sought a formal response on the long-overdue review.

The government has just published its word-salad response on the parliament website (you can find the link on our website, welivehere.net):

“As the tourism sector was heavily disrupted during the pandemic, the post-implementation review will be undertaken as part of the mandatory statutory review of the recent legislative reforms to the Owners’ Corporation Act 2006, which is due to be undertaken between 2023 and 2026. Combining the reviews will allow for more extensive data collection to be undertaken and assessment of the amendments, while also ensuring consistency with the broader review into owners’ corporation legislation and regulation.”

Having deciphered that rather abstruse announcement, we are left asking this: why wasn’t the short-stay legislation included in the overall review in the first place?

Playing the COVID card, the government says we could be waiting another four years before the topic of short-stay regulation is even considered in Victoria – a total wait of eight years. With a forthcoming state election, Victorian apartment dwellers are entitled to more than a vague mollification. We deserve a firm commitment to a fixed date for the review – this year!

Meanwhile, other states and territories have already got down to business and implemented solutions. Is it any wonder the tourism sector is fuming with frustration in Victoria?

NSW tests lowering short-stay limit to 90 days

Attention, state government of Victoria: the NSW Department of Planning has approved a “Gateway Determination” for a planning proposal to reduce the number of days of non-hosted short-term rental accommodation in parts of the Byron Shire from 180 days to 90 days.

The proposal follows an Economic Impact Analysis, commissioned by the NSW Government, that found allowing 90-day caps is the most effective way to support the long-term housing pool.

The proposal is designed “to mitigate the significant impacts of short-term rental accommodation on permanent rental housing supply, amenity, local character, and community, while still allowing for a diverse and sustainable base of tourist accommodation options to support the local economy.”

The NSW government-approved proposal is an exemplar of regulatory changes that are progressing with enviable velocity in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania, particularly for apartment buildings.

Must Victorians gaze disconsolately over the borders as our interstate neighbours tackle, and solve, the socioeconomic problems associated with short-stays?

We understand that The Greens will keep pushing the Victorian Government to bring forward the legislative review and get moving on short-stay regulation sooner. We Live Here will keep making ourselves heard, too, until social equity and economic logic prevail.

Ban on developers locking residents into energy contracts

As an example of how the same state government can achieve results where there is a will, we have a significant win to report.

Victorian apartment developers will be banned from signing any private deals that would lock residents into a contract with an electricity retailer – known as an “embedded network” deal.

Embedded networks can deliver massive undisclosed profits to developers via an opaque “management fee” or margin structure. Although the quantum is usually undisclosed, residents can reckon the secret margin within a reasonable tolerance. For example, if your apartment is paying $50 per month above the best available electricity supply rate, and your building has 200 apartments, the calculation is easy. Remember to add a similar estimate of the markup on the common area electricity costs too.

The good news is that state Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has introduced a ban on embedded networks in new residential buildings, taking effect from next year. There are exceptions where buildings run on 100 per cent renewables. We applaud the state government for this initiative to proscribe an egregiously ethically practice.

This leaves the question of existing buildings with conventional embedded networks, which the government says it will address “soon”.

Meanwhile, conventional embedded network managers are feeling immense pressure from soaring compliance costs. Residents in some buildings suffering with needlessly higher prices because of an embedded network might, just might, be lucky enough to see the private deals implode naturally rather than having to wait for government action.

Campaign donations

As a not-for-profit organisation, donations from individuals and buildings keep our campaigns going. To register as a supporter of We Live Here or to donate, please visit welivehere.net. We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests. •

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