Anti short-term holiday letting community members in Victoria, furious at the Labor Government there for handing their homes over to Airbnb-style holiday rentals, have vowed to make the politicians pay at the next state election later this year.
Maybe it’s a ‘politics of envy’ thing, but the Labor government in Victoria has just passed the weakest short term letting laws in Australia, opening the door for every apartment block in the city to potentially become an Airbnb-style holiday hotel.
One Opposition MP even told about the apartment where he owns a unit having one-third of its 150 apartments listed for short-term holiday lets.
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As of February next year, anybody in Victoria can have holiday lets anywhere, for as short a period as they wish, with no limits on the number of nights a year and no regard for the wishes of the majority of their neighbours.
If 99 out of 100 residents don’t want holiday lets, but one selfish owner does, there goes the building. No wonder that short-term holiday lets in residential homes Victoria have rocketed by 75 percent in the past year (compared to only 25 per cent in NSW) in anticipation of the Victorian government’s complete abrogation of their responsibilities to apartment owners and renters.
Counter-intuitively, in NSW the Liberal coalition has proposed laws that would give apartment owners the right to pass by-laws – albeit requiring a majority of 75 percent – that allow strata communities to choose whether or not they want short-term lets in their blocks.
It’s only when you read the reaction of significant players in Victoria that we realise how lucky we have been to have organisations like the Owners Corporation Network and their offshoot Our Community Our Choice campaigning on our behalf.
The following is a Press release prepared by Tom Bacon of Strata Title Lawyers and Barbara Francis of community group We Live Here.
In stunning scenes in Parliament yesterday, the Victorian Government passed the weakest regulatory restrictions for short term letting ever seen in Australia, to the delight of Airbnb.
The short-term letting online platform, with its head office in San Francisco, had already received the good news earlier this week when it was announced that Melbourne had become its 9th most popular city in the world for the number of Airbnb listings.
In answering questions from the Greens in Parliament yesterday, the Trade and Innovation Minister, Mr Dalidakis admitted to Parliament that “I visited Airbnb’s office [in San Francisco] in a visit to North America”. (Hansard, 7 August 2018, page 46)
It was earlier reported by The Age that Premier Daniel Andrews had visited Airnb in San Francisco in 2015 as part of an Emergency Management Victoria initiative.
After the tragic stabbing death of a young woman at a party in a short stay apartment in the Melbourne CBD at EQ Tower in July, Premier Andrews stated that his government would look into tightening regulations for short stay Apartments.
However in Parliament yesterday, the Government passed the same legislation word for word that had been rejected by the Upper House as inadequate more than 12 months earlier.
The Government made only two amendments to the Bill, in relation to the timing of the legislation to delay its commencement until February 2019.
One of the recommendations made over 12 months ago was for the Government to investigate giving greater powers and resources to Victorian Police to be able to deal with criminal activity in short stay Apartments.
However, that recommendation was never acted upon, and Minister Dalidakis told Parliament that he considered the issue was “core Police business”.
The Government stated in its policy response that it would conduct a review in 2021 to see whether the new regulations were working and would seek feedback from stakeholders and resident groups at that time. However, this review was not inserted into the Bill and the Labour Government could not commit to a review because it might not be in power in 2021.
The Liberal’s Shadow Minister for Planning, David Davis addressed Parliament to slam the government for reintroducing the same legislation which he labelled “weak” “pathetic” and a “damp squib.”
The Liberal Party told Parliament that it would seek to have this legislation amended if it were to form government at the next election.
Ultimately however, the Liberal Party did not block the passing of the Bill when it came time to vote on the legislation and was absent from the chamber when it was put to the vote.
Tom Bacon, CEO of Strata Title Lawyers said, “The legislation is not worth the paper it is written on.
These regulations are the lightest feather of a touch, and do not provide Owners Corporation’s with any meaningful way of regulating the issues associated with short-term stays.
I would not advise Owners Corporations to use these regulations; it would be a costly exercise and a waste of time.”
Barbara Francis of We Live Here, a residents group representing more than 300 buildings in Melbourne said, “Yesterday’s outcome must rank as one of the worst cases of politicking and back-room deals seen in Parliament.
How can we think otherwise when every speaker on the opposition side condemned the Bill for all the reasons we have articulated over the past 2/12years, then walked out of the House before the vote was taken.
And the answers provided by Minister Dalidakis and his advisors were so feeble and showed how little the Government understood the issues that it became an embarrassing spectacle.
If they had engaged with We Live Here even once – despite our repeated requests over many months – some sensible amendments might have resulted.
However what we have been left with is plenty of ammunition to use in the forthcoming election campaign.
You can find the full transcript of proceedings on pages 29-47 of Hansard on the Parliamentary website at:
images/stories/daily-hansard/ Council_2018/Council_Jul-Sep_ 2018_Daily_7_August_2018.pdf