Airbnb, with a few minor self-interested exceptions, seem to be going it alone with their objections to the holiday letting registries proposed for NSW and now WA.
And they are doing this by rolling out some tried and tested arguments.
“Despite making a significant contribution to the local economy, short-term rentals represent an incredibly small fraction of the overall Australian housing market and housing experts have confirmed short-term rentals do not have a material impact on housing affordability,” says Airbnb’s public affairs manager Julian Crowley.
“The continued growth of short-term rentals among travellers from Australia and the world is creating even more economic opportunities and local jobs. A 2017 Deloitte Access Economics report found the Airbnb community supported more than 14,000 local jobs in addition to the activities of hosts.”
And this is the dichotomy facing politicians across the country. Pro-holiday let lobbyists say their guests bring extra revenue to the country and there can be little doubt that online short-term holiday letting platforms have boosted tourism and some personal incomes.
But at what cost, especially in terms of the undoubted disruption to communities, notably in apartment blocks? Despite the boost in revenue, they say the impact is negligible.
Also, with exaggerated claims and fears, dubious statistics and a lack of transparency across the industry, you have to ask where politicians and the public can get reliable figures?
Certainly, the survey cited by Airbnb, produced by SGS Economics & Planning (SGSEP) in September last year contradicts the aruments of many property spruikers, by claiming that switching from long-term tenants to short-term holiday lets is not profitable in most cases.
“Broadly speaking, it is not financially beneficial to host a property on Airbnb instead of renting to a long-term tenant,” wrote report co-author Terry Rawnsley, principal and partner at SGSEP.
“In only a small number of cases is it more profitable to list a property on Airbnb full time rather than on the rental market,” the report continues. “With the exception of Melbourne City, it appears that renting has higher expected takings over a time period of a standard lease agreement.”
The report which claimed to be the first in Australia to use official Airbnb data, also said Airbnb lets were a tiny percentage of the number of dwellings in the NSW and Victorian state capitals, with only 0.9 percent of dwellings in Sydney and 0.5 in Melbourne given over to holiday letting.
However, the Owners Corporation Network (OCN) and other industry observers point out that the percentages are for the greater conurbations of both cities, rather than the areas where short-term letting is most prevalent.
Comparing numbers of whole-home lets identified by industry standard analysts InsideAirbnb.com with the number of dwellings in the high impact areas paints a very different picture.
For instance, in the Waverley district of Sydney, which includes Bondi Beach, the number of whole homes now listed on Airbnb represents 11.5 per cent of all households, as recorded in the last census. City of Sydney is next with 5.6 per cent, with lower impacts in Woollahra (3.85), Randwick (3.4), Northern Beaches (2.85) and North Sydney (2.6).
In Melbourne, the city centre (taking in Docklands) has 9.3 per cent of dwellings available on Airbnb, while Port Philip (including St Kilda) has 4.2 per cent and Yarra has 3.4 per cent. Even Stonnington (which includes Prahran) has 2.5 per cent – not massive numbers but still five times greater that the SGSEP figure for Melbourne as a whole.
“This is the hollowing out of our city centres that we are seeing here and overseas,” says Jane Hearn Vice Chair of OCN, who also warns that other smaller online agencies would boost those figures significantly. “A mandatory register would reveal the true extent of holiday rentals.”