Airbnb about-face over unit blocks - Domain 2/3/18

"The City of Sydney has changed its original stance on Airbnb and is now in favour of owners having the final say on whether short-term lets should be allowed in their apartment buildings.

The inner-city council, which has the highest concentration of apartment blocks in Australia, moved significantly away from its earlier position that short-term letting should be considered an “exempt development”, which would have permitted whole homes – including strata apartments – in residential-only zones being leased as holiday rentals.

Its latest stance to the NSW inquiry into short-term holiday lets, revealed in the online publication of submissions, recommends that “strata communities be given the power to restrict short-term letting in their building … where there is strong support, such as a 75 per cent majority [of owners].”

A City of Sydney spokesperson said a recently-conducted survey helped to inform its new position on short-term letting.

“More than 75 per cent of our residents live in apartments, so it’s important that we hear how short-term letting is impacting their lives,” the spokesperson said.

“Our most recent submission suggested consideration be given under strata title laws for strata communities to have a greater say in whether short-term holiday letting should occur in their own strata buildings. Short-term letting of whole homes present a range of challenges to strata communities, particularly regarding waste and the use of common spaces.”

But giving owners’ corporations the power to decide whether residents can or can’t short-term lease their entire apartments doesn’t seem fair to apartment resident Alice Hidajat, 29, who has previously vocalised her support for Airbnb. Ms Hidajat rents her whole studio out only occasionally when she goes away for work as a relationship manager for S & P Global, or on holiday.

“If someone rents out their apartment for long periods or every week, then that should be treated as a different case,” she says.

“But for those of us who do it only sometimes, we’re doing people a favour. They might not be able to visit Sydney otherwise, or find any hotel accommodation, and we’re not causing any problems in our buildings. The government needs to look at different solutions, rather than imposing a one catch-all rule.”

The Property Council of Australia, which champions the interests of property developers and institutional investors, didn’t make a submission to an earlier inquiry into short term holiday lets.

But now they too have told the NSW Government committee considering the future of companies like Airbnb and Stayz in unit blocks that owners’ corporations should have the power to ban residents from leasing out whole homes “in cases where the owners’ corporation is in favour of doing so”.

Property Council of Australia (PCA) NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald says that owners’ corporations should be given enhanced powers to manage holiday lets in their buildings – including outright bans.

“We don’t generally advance a position of banning anything,” she says. “But there is obviously a problem in some strata schemes of home lets being used as party houses and there may be a preponderance of these in locations which are highly desirable on any given weekend.

“Given that there is a problem there, we propose that owners in strata schemes should be able to determine whether it’s appropriate. It’s about giving the owners of property the right to say what can happen in their property.”

Both the PCA and the City of Sydney have told the government’s Options Paper for Short-Term Holiday Letting in NSW that owners’ corporations should also be given enhanced powers to deal with disruptive guests and hosts. At the same time, they agree that genuine sharing – where the host is renting a room while they are still in residence – should be allowed.

Airbnb, however, says the single most important voice in this whole process is voters. “Governments should of course listen to what voters are doing and saying, not vested interests,” said Airbnb’s head of public policy ANZ Brent Thomas.

“With one in five Australians now using Airbnb, it is clear that voters support home sharing and want governments to catch up.

“We strongly believe people should have the right to share their own homes regardless of whether they happen to live in a unit, house or lighthouse. A lot of Sydneysiders can only afford to live in a strata building, so any wholesale or blanket bans on home-sharing in strata communities would be unfair and discriminatory. They would in effect create a two-tiered society of those able to benefit from the sharing economy and those that are locked out.”

Significantly, Airbnb’s definition of “home sharing” doesn’t differentiate between letting a room in a home when the host is there and renting out a whole home as a commercial enterprise. The NSW Government has yet to indicate when it will rule on short term holiday lets. The submissions can be viewed on the planning NSW website.

Original Arcticle Published here:

https://www.domain.com.au/news/city-of-sydney-now-in-favour-of-apartment...