How I failed to stay calm and write a submission on Airbnb

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The NSW state government has called for submissions responding to their Options Paper on legislation to govern the rapid expansion of short-term holiday letting in residential homes.

My view of the short-term holiday letting (STHL) debate is quite simple – give Airbnb exactly what they say they want. I chose my words very carefully there because what Airbnb say they want and what they actually want are two very different things.

What they say they want is for people to be allowed to share their homes by letting out a room (while they are there) to give the guests the benefit of their local knowledge.

This was the caring and sharing concept that kick-started their business and  is the constant theme of their advertising and PR spin.  Poor old Aggie can only pay her strata levies because she rents a room to Swedish backpackers.

Does anyone have any problem with that? As long as Aggie is there to deal with any problems and moderate the behaviour of her Scandinavian guests when they get on the flavoured vodka, there probably is no problem.

Does anyone have any problem with tenants being able to do it as freely as owners?  Not here!  What’s sauce for the goose …

But Airbnb’s definition of “home sharing” is a bit different from that and bears very little relation to any normal definition of the word “sharing” or, indeed, “home”.

Airbnb, marching under a banner of owners’ and tenants’ “rights” to do as they please with their homes, blithely ignore several facts of strata life.

The most important of these is that you give up the right to do exactly as you please with your home when you sign up for the many, many benefits of shared facilities that you get in apartment blocks.

You don’t get in a bus and expect the driver to take the vehicle to your front door because you have the right to go exactly where you want to go.


A**holes of the world unite –
you have nothing to lose
but your (rental) bonds.

You don’t walk into a pub and turn the TV over from the Footy to the Bachelor because you have a right to watch what you want on TV.

And you don’t move into an apartment block and announce that you will be ignoring residential zoning and by-laws because you have the right to make more money from tourists than you would from regular tenants.

OK, maybe you do – which would explain why you are universally loathed by your neighbours.

This is the “right” that Airbnb is really fighting for on your behalf – your right to be an ignorant, selfish asshole (which seems to be fundamental to their global philosophy).  Assholes of the world unite – you have nothing to lose but your (rental) bonds.

So please, if you are as proud as I am of our city and country, let a room in your home to a tourist from another country or from interstate and show them what makes Sydney and Melbourne two of the greatest places on the planet.

Let your entire house if you like (provided your neighbours can tolerate the fact that your ‘guests’ may not be as well behaved as you are).

But letting whole apartments? That’s OUR swimming pool, and OUR gym, and OUR lifts and OUR peace and quiet and OUR security and OUR overworked building manager that you are renting out to people that, not only don’t we know them – you don’t know them either.

I sat down to write a carefully considered submission to government discussion paper that was going to be an object lesson in cool logic and diplomacy. I failed (again).

But you read the drip feed of lies and half-truths, and you watch our politicians lining up to be trendier-than-thou by embracing a fast-buck scheme that threatens to undermine everything we have achieved in strata living in the past 15 years … and logic goes out of the window.

Hey, if Uber can encourage people to break the law on taxis and Airnbnb can encourage people to ignore planning regulations, what next? Maybe I’ll have an online wacky-baccy emporium and if enough people sign up I’ll say “but this is what people want”.

Aaaaargh! This has turned into another rant.

OK, here are some facts (and things Airbnb declines to tell us).

  1. Airbnb may not greatly affect housing availability or rents state-wide, but it’s devastating in the few areas where they do operate, and academic studies prove they are forcing local people out and rents up.
  2. More than 60 percent of Airbnb lets are for whole homes where the owner or tenant is not in situ when their guests are there.
  3. Airbnb won’t tell us how much they make from whole-home lets, citing “privacy”. We cite BS.
  4. Single agencies and “hosts” are running whole home rentals in the hundreds
  5. Most MPs have zero impact from Airbnb in their constituencies because no one wants to holiday somewhere with no beach, or views or two hours from the nearest decent café.
  6. The relatively few MPs in constituencies where holiday lets are most active are feeling the heat from constituents who are being squeezed out.
  7. If you complain to Airbnb that someone in your building is breaching zoning and by-laws by running illegal short-term rentals, Airbnb will pass on to that “host” that you have made a complaint – so much for privacy– and then do nothing.
  8. The inviolable right of people to do as they wish with their homes was eradicated in apartments when the government said that 75 percent of owners could force the other 25 percent to sell.
  9. If you dare to challenge Airbnb, they will come after you (as they did with me). Their campaigns to discredit politicians in the USA who dared to disagree with them were Trumpian in their scale and nature.

I could go on – but what’s the point?  Please do what I have singularly failed to achieve and write a logical, well-argued, sensible response to the holiday letting discussion paper.

You’ll find the Options Paper here, and a fact sheet with FAQs and links to a survey here.

Now, if I just wait for my chill-pill to take effect … I can have another go.

 

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