Sydney MP breaks ranks over airbnb


Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has slammed proposals that Airbnb-style short-stay lets of entire apartments should be allowed in apartment blocks, even when the vast majority of owners don’t want them.

Mr Greenwich, whose constituency covers the largest concentration of apartment blocks in Australia, is the first state MP to openly criticize a report last month by a NSW parliamentary inquiry into holiday letting legislation.

It recommended that strata schemes should no longer be able to ban short-stay lets, as many currently legally do under zoning laws.

“It is possible to appropriately regulate short stay accommodation at the discretion of the owners corporation,” Mr Greenwich told Fairfax Media. “But we shouldn’t have to roll out the red carpet for short stay platforms expecting neighbours to police the holidaymakers”.

Mr Greenwich admits his point of view is at odds with City of Sydney’s official position – that short-stay lets should be allowed as ‘complying developments’ – which was frequently cited to counter calls for restrictions on holiday lets in strata buildings.

At the time of publication, City of Sydney had not delivered promised responses to Mr Greenwich’s move or to suggestions that they were rethinking their position on short-stay lets.

However, Mr Greenwich says he has been approached by many long-term apartment residents who are concerned about their unit blocks being turned into de facto hotels. He believes owners corporations should be allowed to exclude short-stay lets, albeit through by-laws that require a 75 percent majority vote in favour.

And he has written to Victor Dominello, Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation whose remit covers strata law and residential lets, asking for a meeting to discuss the issue, saying any legislation should achieve the correct balance between enabling the sharing economy to grow and preventing impacts on others.

“I continue to receive complaints from strata residents about short term letting and there is significant concern that if all recommendations of the recent inquiry … are adopted, that apartment buildings will be turned into quasi hotels, creating impacts and reducing the sense of community,” he says.

“I agree with my constituents’ concern that entire apartments should not be permitted to provide visitor accommodation at all times and that owners corporations should have the power to ban the practice in strata or impose additional conditions.”

With 60 per cent of 15,000 Airbnb listings in Sydney whole home lets and about a quarter of “hosts” letting more than one property, the proposed laws, based on a model yet to be tested in Victoria, would allow affected strata residents to pursue badly behaved holiday guests and their hosts after a problem occurred.

However, critics say that would put the responsibility and cost of monitoring the behavior of holiday guests on to permanent residents.

“I am also concerned that enforcement powers be improved so that councils can stop properties that do not comply with restrictions, given they currently struggle to prevent short term letting even though it is entirely unlawful,” writes Mr Greenwich.

A spokesman for Mr Dominello’s office confirmed that a meeting with Mr Greenwich was being arranged.

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