Experts push for tighter rules on Airbnb, Stayz to ease housing woes

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

Local, state and federal governments are under increasing pressure to adapt short-stay rental rules to alleviate Australia’s housing crisis.

The popularity of short-stay platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz has risen significantly in recent years as more homeowners place their properties for rent on the online accommodation marketplaces.

Guests view the option as a cheaper way to holiday, while homeowners are tempted by having an additional income stream that can generate thousands of dollars per year.

That change has placed additional strain on the nation’s existing housing supply, with homeowners converting residential tenancies into year-round short-term rental listings, making it even harder for renters and first-time buyers to find a place to live.

Experts call for more regulation

Now, experts are calling for more substantial restrictions on Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms that could help housing affordability and rental market pressures.

Dr Laura Crommelin, Senior Lecturer in City Planning at the University of New South Wales School of Built Environment, says regulations are needed to manage the impact of short-term letting on rental markets.

“Housing was already unaffordable before short-term letting platforms like Airbnb came along, but it is another factor exacerbating the problem,” Dr Crommelin said.

“Just because it’s not the sole cause, doesn’t mean it’s not having a significant impact.”

“There is a strong likelihood that short-term letting is taking away some properties that would otherwise be in the rental market, particularly in places with significant tourism appeal.”

Some tourist hotspots around the country have already begun implementing measures to reduce the impacts of short-stay accommodation, with New South Wale’s Byron Shire recently announcing a 60-day per year cap on non-hosted short-term rental accommodation.

Meanwhile, the City of Melbourne has approved plans to require a $350 registration fee for short-stay accommodation providers and impose a 180-day-a-year cap to push more housing into the long-term rental market.

The Greens currently have a bill before the Victorian state parliament to introduce a 90-day cap on all short-stay listings that are not a person’s primary residence, new rules to allow owners corporations to regulate short-stays in their buildings and mandatory public register of short-stays.

“If the short stays industry is allowed to go unregulated, we just can’t have a healthy long-term rental market,” Greens member for Richmond Gabrielle De Veitri explained.

Many Queensland renters have called for similar restrictions to help alleviate the state’s rental crisis, with more than 11,000 year-round short-term rental properties across the sunshine state.

More short-term rules could harm tourism

However, Crown Realty International Short-Term Rental Property Manager Juan Cangelosi told BuildIT that placing harsh restrictions on the sector would do more harm than good, especially in tourist-dependent regions.

“Short-term rentals provide vital holiday accommodation to Queensland’s tourism and the local economy,” he said.

“Many of these short-term properties are focused on specific suburbs such as Surfers Paradise, and their existence does not correlate with the rise in long-term rent prices in most suburbs.”

No correlation between high rents and short-term rentals

That proved correct earlier this year when the Queensland government commissioned the University of Queensland to investigate how short-stay websites impact the state’s rental market.

The review found no clear correlation between the suburbs with the highest rent increases and the percentage of dwellings available as short-term rentals.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella said the report reiterates that housing supply is the source of the rental crisis and what has had the most significant impact on rental affordability.

“How many different times do we need to end up coming to the same conclusion that insufficient rental supply is the root of the issue before it hits home?” Ms Mercorella said.

“This report cements the fact there is no correlation between the prevalence of short-term rentals and nearby long-term rental affordability, and our hope is that it can finally stop distracting the government from where their real focus needs to be – addressing supply.”

Dr Crommelin agrees short-term rental restrictions won’t solve the nation’s rental crisis, but she says they may help boost at least some supply in the short term and ease some of the pressure for renters.

“Short-term letting is simply another way housing can be monetised by those who already have access to it, making the challenges even greater for those who don’t.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.