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Driven out by short-stays

03 Sep 2015

Driven out by short-stays Image

By Bethany Williams

There are always two sides to any story.

But no matter which side of  the debate you’re on, when it comes to the issue of short-stay accommodation, there’s one certainty no-one can deny – the issue has divided Docklands.

It’s been so divisive that one resident says she has left the area due to the issue.

Former NewQuay resident Sally Hewitt says she sold her NewQuay apartment earlier this year and has moved to Port Melbourne, because she could no longer cope with the issue of short-stays.

“I feel like I’ve abandoned everyone,” Ms Hewitt said. “I’ve been a stalwart, a hard-working serviced apartment opponent and more generally supportive of Docklands for a long time and now I just can’t take it any more.”

But on the other hand are people like former NewQuay residents like Paul O’Halloran, who say they may have left the area, but the issue of short-stays had nothing to do with the decision.

Ms Hewitt said she and her husband Bill were the first residents to move into the Conder building in 2004.

Ms Hewitt says she was completely unaware of the existence of short-stays when she moved and recalls being told that other residents in the building would all be long-term.

As time went on Ms Hewitt became aware of short-stays in the building, initially counting 35 short-stays, which she says has now grown to around 62, out of a total of 200 apartments in the building.

After taking a break from living in the apartment, Ms Hewitt said she couldn’t bring herself to return to the building.

“If it wasn’t for the serviced apartments I’d be moving back into my apartment and I’d be quite happy,” she said.

She says she feels forced out of Docklands and says she knows other people who would like to leave the area but can’t afford to make a loss on their property, as she did.  

“The community is dying because of this,” Ms Hewitt said. “It’s very divisive.”

However, other former long-term NewQuay residents such as Mr O’Halloran say short-stays had no bearing at all on their decision to leave the area.

Mr O’Halloran lived at NewQuay for nine years before leaving the area in 2011.

“My strong opinion is that some vested interests have been playing up the issue of short-stays,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“While there are some issues with short-stays, the vast majority of visitors and operators do the right thing.”

In contrast, Ms Hewitt said the frustration of living in a building alongside short-stay accommodation was compounded by her knowledge of the financial cost to the building and to owners such as herself.

Having sat on the Conder owners’ corporation (OC) for 10 years, and as OC chair for a number of years, Ms Hewitt said she “scrutinised the financials well and truly”.

“Just in broad terms, the budget for the building annually was $1 million per year in administration, maintenance and cleaning,” she said.

“If you looked at those costs you could identify $100,000 which was related to extra things we did due to serviced apartments including security, cleaning, more administration, a live-in manager, night-time security, and that all totalled to $100,000 or about 10 per cent of the budget.”

Ms Hewitt said these additional costs were passed on to her and others owners in their body corporate fees.

She said short-stays also made a “mockery” of the secure selling point of apartment buildings, as it was simple for anyone to gain access to the building by booking accommodation.

She said short-stays disturbed the building “day and night” and that police had been called to the building multiple times to respond to violent and unpleasant behaviour.

“Is that the sort of place you want to call home?” Ms Hewitt said.

However, Mr O’Halloran said in the nine years he was OC chair of the Boyd, Palladio and Sant Elia buildings he received security reports regarding the building every day

“We had as many, if not more, noise complaints relating to long-term residents, over short-stay residents,” he said.

According to Mr O’Halloran, there are many good people running good short-stay businesses in NewQuay. He said many of the local restaurants and businesses wouldn’t have survived without short-stays.

Mr O’Halloran suggested that an additional levy from owners of short-stay apartment owners could go some way to counteracting the additional wear and tear caused by short-stays.

Victorian Accommodation Industry Association (VICAIA) president and Watergate short-stay operator Paul Salter said he was not aware of any data or evidence that people move because of short-stay activity in Docklands or elsewhere in Melbourne.

He said the VICAIA’s code promoted professionally run activities that reduced impact on amenity, combined with procedures that screened guests allowed into a property.

“Our members do not want guests who treat a property with disrespect or cause any damage – that is not a sound business practice. A professional operator knows that it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that all guests abide by the code of conduct,” Mr Salter said.

“The association will continue to work with the various government departments and councils and report rogue operators or operations that do not comply with the appropriate standards.”

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