Airbnb fears for re­gions

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - TREVOR PADDENBURG

AIRBNB could lead to WA towns be­com­ing full of short­stay holiday homes, with no long-term rentals avail­able for lo­cals and a loss of com­mu­nity and soul.

That’s the pos­si­bil­ity raised in sub­mis­sions to a WA par­lia­men­tary in­quiry con­sid­er­ing mea­sures to reg­u­late short­stay ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­clud­ing a cap on the num­ber of days a year a prop­erty can be rented or al­low­ing re­gional towns to gazette “Airbnb-free zones”.

The in­quiry was launched af­ter ris­ing ten­sions be­tween own­ers of li­censed short-stay busi­nesses, such as ho­tels, ser­viced apart­ments and bed and break­fasts, who say there is not a level play­ing field with un­li­censed op­er­a­tors who ad­ver­tise through web­sites such as Airbnb.

In a sub­mis­sion look­ing at var­i­ous op­tions for reg­u­lat­ing the in­dus­try, the Depart­ment of Plan­ning, Lands and Her­itage warned that the rise of Airbnb meant more prop­er­ties were ad­ver­tised for short-stay tourist ac­com­mo­da­tion in­stead of long-term rentals.

In towns such as Mar­garet River and Duns­bor­ough in the South West, that meant fewer avail­able homes for lo­cal res­i­dents and a dan­ger of erod­ing the com­mu­nity.

“There is a lack of long-term res­i­den­tial rentals in re­gional ar­eas of the State, and in par­tic­u­lar the South West. Many res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties are be­ing pur­chased specif­i­cally for short-stay ac­com­mo­da­tion with short-term rentals be­ing more prof­itable than longterm res­i­den­tial rentals,” the sub­mis­sion said.

A draft doc­u­ment by the Depart­ment of Plan­ning shows op­tions for reg­u­lat­ing the “shar­ing econ­omy short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion” in­clude: AL­LOW­ING in­di­vid­ual coun­cils to ban Airbnb rentals in cer­tain ar­eas. REG­U­LAT­ING prop­er­ties where the owner is not present but ex­empt­ing “mum and dad land­lords” who live at the prop­erty and rent a room or stu­dio. STIPULATING that Airbnb rentals must be a min­i­mum of two nights and land­lords must regis­ter with the coun­cil and pro­vide on-site park­ing, like a City of Fre­man­tle sys­tem. CAPPING the num­ber of days a non-hosted prop­erty can be rented, as in Syd­ney where a 180-day limit ap­plies.

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion (AHA) WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Bradley Woods said some towns could lose their soul if short-stay rentals dom­i­nated the streets. He cited re­search which showed NSW mec­cas Bondi Beach, Manly and By­ron Bay had as many as one in every seven prop­er­ties listed on Airbnb, pric­ing out lo­cals.

“Fail­ure to ad­dress the is­sue of un­reg­is­tered short-stay ac­com­mo­da­tion can have a pro­found and neg­a­tive im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties,” he said. “A sense of com­mu­nity is eroded when long-term ten­ants are priced out of the mar­ket. There are also grow­ing con­cerns be­ing ex­pressed by lo­cal res­i­dents across the State who do not want to be liv­ing next door to a quasi-ho­tel, which im­pacts on com­mu­nity amenity and neigh­bour­hood iden­tity.”

How­ever, the in­quiry was told a cap on rental days would re­quire “sig­nif­i­cant polic­ing by lo­cal govern­ment”, and may not lead to more hous­ing for long-term ten­ants.

Depart­ment of Plan­ning, Lands and Her­itage di­rec­tor­gen­eral Gail McGowan said any reg­u­la­tion would have to bal­ance “pro­mot­ing tourism, pro­tect­ing the rights of in­di­vid­u­als, al­low­ing mums and dads to make a bit of money, and . . . the level play­ing field is­sue”.

Ac­cord­ing to Airbnb, there are about 11,500 prop­er­ties listed in WA, in­clud­ing 4000 in Perth, mak­ing an aver­age of $6100 a year by leas­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion for 34 nights. Airbnb pub­lic pol­icy head Brent Thomas said the rules for home shar­ing were “out of date”.

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