Councils should be given power to refuse permits for Airbnb listings if they are having a negative impact on housing in local communities, a Tasmanian parliamentary committee has recommended.
The Legislative Council Select Committee’s report on short stay accommodation in Tasmania comes in response to concerns about the impact of schemes like Airbnb on the state’s housing and rental markets.
It says local government authorities should have discretionary powers to rule on Airbnb permits for properties that aren’t the lister’s principal place of residence.
Owners listing their principle place of residence would be exempt from having to get a permit, but would have to register with their local council.
Airbnb displacing locals
Tasmania’s peak local government body argued in submissions to the committee that little is left of Airbnb’s original platform of sharing unused spaces while forging a connection with a local resident.
LGAT said of the 4421 Tasmanian properties listed as being available on Airbnb, 76.3 per cent were entire homes or apartments and 84.4 of all the listings are available for more than 60 days a year.
Meanwhile the University of Tasmania estimated that about 70 per cent of properties listed as “entire properties” on AirBNB were formerly used for long term rental accommodation.
“Where present in high numbers in a particular location, this type of accommodation is increasingly seen by many as displacing locals and contributing to a negative change in the amenity and liveability of the local communities,” LGAT said in its submission to the inquiry.
“One of the biggest issues that is occurring now with short stay visitor accommodation is the tension between those people committed to the true sharing economy and supplementing their incomes in a small way … and those who are interested in sharing their primary residence and meeting new people and those who are interested in listing properties primarily for commercial gain”.
The report found significant growth in Airbnbs in Hobart in the 18 months to January 2018, coupled with a reduction in affordable housing.
Hobart City Council said it now costs just $10 less to rent a house in the Tasmanian capital than in Melbourne and $20 a week more than in Brisbane, with the median rent now at $420 a week, representing the biggest surge in rent across Australia’s capital cities.
The report also found a lack of data about short term rentals in the state and recommends the state government develops comprehensive data collection and analysis programs.
Clash between need for short term and long term rentals
LGAT President Mayor Christina Holmdahl said the expansion of Tasmania’s tourism industry had created a situation where the need for short term accommodation was sometimes clashing with the need for longer term rentals.
“The problem, particularly with a small community, is that Airbnb takes away the long term rental availability,” she told Government News.
She said LGAT welcomed the recommendation for discretion around permits, as current regulations didn’t provide for a permit to be declined on the basis of housing supply issues.
“It will mean that councils will be able to determine whether the balance is tipping in the wrong direction and work with the state government to ensure that the needs of all renters are taken care of,” she said.
“At the moment if there isn’t an issue the permit is approved, but what the local government sector is asking is for is information to determine whether there is an imbalance in the availability of a mixture of rental properties.
“If (short stay accommodation) impacts on long term rental and affordability then the sector is saying we would like to be able to decline an application for a permit if those other factors come into play.”
LGAT had not yet had a reply from the government in relation to the recommendations, she said.
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