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We Live Here - March 2018

28 Feb 2018

Startling Airbnb listing statistics

New data on Airbnb listings for Melbourne has shown that between 2016 and 2018 there has been a 132 per cent increase in listings for metropolitan Melbourne and a whopping 186 per cent increase in listings within the City of Melbourne, see Table 1.

The figures were extracted and analysed especially for We Live Here by New York-based Australian Murray Cox, the creator of InsideAirbnb.com who is back in Australia on a short visit.

As many of you will know InsideAirbnb.com is the website that analyses Airbnb’s publicly available data and makes it available for anyone to use.

Not surprisingly Mr Cox has been referred to as Airbnb’s “public enemy number one”, but for those of us around the world trying to get a handle on the ever-increasing problem it is gold and we are very grateful to him for providing us with this up-to-date information.

We Live Here’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Short-stays (March 2017) included data for 2016 that was extracted from InsideAirbnb.com. A total of 56.6 per cent of all listings were for entire dwellings and 38.9 per cent of hosts were multi-listing.

These percentages from 2016 were applied to the data from 2018 in the above table (and there is nothing to suggest that anything has changed in the meantime). The results are shown in Table 2.

These results are shocking and fly in the face of Airbnb’s own mantra that their business is only about “mums and dads” renting out a room in their own home!

These data of course don’t include all the other on-line booking platforms or the short-stay operators who for years have been running commercial short-stay businesses in residential buildings not designed for them, and not paying their due taxes, etc.

It all adds up to an industry out of control that is rapidly turning Melbourne into a city of ghettoes in the sky, with the pain now spreading to the fringes of Melbourne such as the Mornington Peninsula.

When will the government start to listen to us?

It is time for Planning and Consumer Affairs to get together to address this issue, as their counterparts in NSW are doing.

San Francisco is an example of how short-stays can be regulated in apartments.

Airbnb law in San Francisco

Since 2015, San Francisco law has regulated short-term rentals in apartments, with an Office of Short Term Rental (OSTR) established to enforce the law.

The main principles of the law are:

Permanent San Francisco residents only. To rent an entire property short-term the host must live in the property for 275 days per year. Absentee owners cannot do short-term rentals;

90-day rule. Where host is not present, maximum 90 days per year – subject to a daily fine of around $A600 for a first offence and then up to A$1200 per day;

Hosted rentals exempt. Where the host is present in the unit these rules do not apply;

Only primary residence may be rented short term. Permanent residents may rent out their primary residence but not properties where they don’t live. This is aimed at stopping landlords evicting tenants to create ersatz hotels;

Registration and permits. Hosts must register and get a permit in person from the OSTR. The fee is $300 for two years. The registered property addresses are accessible online to the public;

Insurance mandatory. Minimum $650,000 liability cover. Or the host can use a hosting service that offers at least that cover. Airbnb, for example, says they provide hosts with $1 million liability cover;

Safety. Hosts are also obliged to post notices inside the front door with the location of fire extinguishers, emergency exits and alarms;

Rent control. Hosts who are tenants are prohibited from charging guests more than they are paying to their current landlord. Tenants who breach this rule can be fined up to $A1200 per day and be banned;

Hotel Tax. The 14 per cent San Francisco Transient Occupancy Tax must be collected from guests and paid to the city. This requires either registration by the host with the San Francisco Treasurer and Tax Collector and a certificate of business registration, or the use of Airbnb to do this for the host (no other platforms have been approved to take this role);

Hosting platforms must notify hosts. Platforms such as Airbnb must notify their hosts of these laws; and

Tenants must notify landlords. Leases that forbid subletting are still valid and eviction for breach is allowed. A tenant must be given 30 days notice to cease to avoid eviction.

Finally

Jane Garrett for Lord Mayor of Melbourne … Tell her she’s dreaming!

Jane Garrett, formerly Minister for Consumer Affairs, was responsible for introducing the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Bill, 2016 (the Bill) into Parliament in May 2016.

Evidence shows that the government colluded with AirBnB in producing this legislation.

Ms Garrett was photographed shaking hands with Airbnb’s Sam McDonagh following the announcement of the Bill.

Airbnb’s Brent Thomas announced on Melbourne radio that it had partnered with the government on the Bill, declaring it was the “best legislation anywhere in the world”.

We now wonder if Airbnb might be trying to infiltrate the council.

When interviewed about her plans to nominate for Lord Mayor, Ms Garrett said that it had been “raised by others” – could it be Airbnb using her to get a toe-hold into the City of Melbourne?

The residents of Melbourne deserve better than a Lord Mayor who will destroy the fabric of living in strata communities.

So unless she comes and talks to us and convinces us otherwise, We Live Here would not want her to represent the City of Melbourne on our behalf.

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