Your chance to speak out on Airbnb in unit blocks


Want to have your say about short-term holiday letting in apartment blocks but feel your voice isn’t being heard? Not sure what to say in a submission to to state government’s consultation?

On October 24, Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich is going to chair a “town hall style” meeting in Parliament House, organised by Our Strata Community Our Choice.

The intention is, at least in part,  to counter the combined effects of the high-powered lobbying by Airbnb at a senior level in government and their “astroturfing” campaign – a fake grass roots movement –  both of which are intended to make MPs feel that the majority of people in Sydney want Airbnb to be given open slather to turn our apartment blocks into hotels.

The default should be no holiday lets in residential blocks – the requirement should be for a by-law to allow Airbnb, not one to restrict it.

And let’s be clear on this – the vast majority of people in Sydney don’t give a damn about Airbnb in your apartment block for the simple reason that it doesn’t affect them.

The same goes for the vast majority of MPs who can’t see how filling units in Ultimo or Bondi with tourists affects housing prices, rents and availability in Pennant Hills, Pymble or Parramatta.

In fact, many people who live in apartment blocks in this city don’t care about Airbnb here (although that may be because it has been held in check in some areas). A lot of those who do care, however, still want to be able to use Airbnb when they travel overseas.

A little bit Nimby (Not In My Back Yard), your honour?  Even the recent City of Sydney survey showed that resident owners, the majority of whom wanted to be able to choose whether or not to allow short-term holiday lets in their buildings, liked the option of being able to use Airbnb when they are overseas.

So what? I hate to say it, but that’s the host country’s problem.

If you like bullfights, go to Spain – don’t try to have them legalised here.  If you want to be able to smoke wacky-baccy in cafes, head for Amsterdam, they’ll gladly provide the facilities – but don’t expect widespread support here, even in Kings Cross or Bondi.

The point is, local problems require local solutions.  It seems very likely now that the government will present a Bill that says if your block is zoned residential only and, provided you get a 75 percent vote at a general meeting, you can pass a by-law that either bans or restricts holiday letting on terms that your block sets for itself.

That is local people coming up with a local solution – and if that’s the one they go for, it’s only half the answer.

I really don’t want folks who live in a McMansion, have never set foot in an apartment block and are only concerned about their holiday accommodation in Paris, deciding whether or not my home will be turned into an hotel (without the security and safety measures that hotels are required to provide).

But, as any regular reader of this website will know, the greatest power in strata is abject apathy.  The chances are that the vast majority of apartment blocks won’t take up that option and the so-called “sharing” economy will spread like the virus that it is.

And you might think Airbnb would be happy with that.  Eighty percent of apartment blocks (based on their own figures) is a big chunk of real estate.  But it’s not enough.

What they really, really want are the well-run buildings where apathy is not the controlling force. They want the buildings with concierges and cleaners and swimming pools and gyms, where facilities are maintained because the owners pay a premium for that.

Airbnb know that these are the apartment blocks that will earn them the most income and they also know they are the blocks where the owners are most likely to make informed decisions about whether or not to allow their homes to be turned into holiday resorts.

Their fundamentally dishonest campaign, claiming this is about home owners’ right to “share” their homes, is really about the global corporation’s potential to make the maximum profit from prime real estate.

Just look at the figures: 60 percent of Airbnb listings are for entire, non-shared properties, resulting in 6,000 homes having been taken out of the residential market, according to a recent study by Sydney University.

So will a new law allowing unit blocks to pass a by-law restricting holiday lets sink Airbnb in Sydney?  Not even close.  That 25 percent required to block new by-laws will be pretty easy to get when Airbnb morphs from bogus global hug-fest into street-fighting mode.

If the government really wants the people who live in apartment blocks to decide on whether or not they want short-term holiday letting in buildings hitherto zoned as residential-only, then the requirement should be for a by-law to allow it, not one to restrict it.

The default should be no short-term letting in residential-only buildings. That’s the basis on which people were sold or rented their homes, and that’s their contract with the council and the state government.

You can’t change laws on people just because a greedy minority sees the chance to make a few bucks.

Spaces for the meeting are limited so you should register at the Our Strata Our Choice website

Leave a Reply

scroll to top