Unlikely allies are demanding the Tasmanian Government secure data about short-term accommodation so the state’s housing crisis can be properly tackled.
As tourism continues to boom in Tasmania, the homeless and those on low to average incomes are suffering, as more properties move to Airbnb-style listings.
The Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS), Shelter Tasmania (ST), the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) and the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania (TICT) have joined forces asking the State Government to help secure data from businesses like Airbnb and Stayz, which list short-term accommodation, especially for tourists.
They want the data to identify where the changes have occurred, to what kinds of properties, whether property owners are complying with regulations, and for long-term planning.
The State Government announced earlier this year that an agreement had been reached with Airbnb and Stayz on data sharing, and now the groups want that data made available so the state’s housing crisis can be properly tackled.
The groups said in the light of the Tasmanian Planning Commission recommendations released last week, Airbnb and Stayz should prioritise listing data so significant shifts from the long-term rental market could be mapped.
TasCOSS’s Kym Goodes said time had run out.
“What unites us is a desire to see an evidence-based examination around what is happening in short-stay accommodation, so … we can make evidence-based and informed decisions about what needs to happen in Tasmania,” she said.
“We want to put some pressure on the Government to show us some leadership.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time for negotiations with the major short-stay accommodation web listers, namely Airbnb and Stayz.
“We don’t have a deadline from the Government, so we don’t know where the negotiations are at, and the time for waiting for that information is past.
“We’ve got major decisions to make in terms of protecting lifestyle and ensuring Tasmanians are not displaced from where they live, and we need to have data to inform that decision making.”
ST’s Patti Chugg said everyone knew there was a chronic housing shortage in Tasmania, and eyes were on the Tasmanian Budget on Thursday.
“It has been a big discussion around the impact of Airbnb and other types of accommodation, but what we want to be really clear about so we make really sound judgements … is to have the evidence, to have the numbers … and the locations … of stand-alone properties.”
The Greens have proposed pausing the listing of entire homes for short-term accommodation.
Ms Chugg said that sort of proposal needed to be worked into a bigger solution.
“We are all united in asking for that clear evidence, and that will help us with the decision-making,” she said.
Ms Goodes said one of the things the four organisations were looking at was how the community understood what their responsibility was if they did want to list a property.
She said another major concern was how well councils were resourced to ensure compliance with the permits allowing people to do this.
“We also want to say to Airbnb and Stayz, if you are good corporate citizens, if you want to operate in a state where you care about the community and the outcomes of Tasmanians, we know you will come to the table with this data,” she said.
Ms Goodes said the data might show whether regulation and compliance checks should be centralised or devolved to the regions.
Rental affordability crisis
Ms Chugg said rental affordability was now a wide issue, as shown in the latest rental affordability index in Hobart.
“People on average incomes were still paying 28 per cent of their income in rents. this is not just a problem for people how are homeless,” she said.
“It is a problem for people who are working. We are finding rents are going up much quicker than people’s incomes.”
Ms Chugg said she hoped the State Government would look at the whole picture, including housing, population growth, the impacts of tourism, the short-term accommodation organisations, but also the importance of people’s incomes.
Luke Martin from TICT said short-stay accommodation was a long-term issue for the state.
“We’ve got to think about, ‘well, what do we want our regional communities like Binalong Bay and St Helens and Coles Bay and Bruny Island to look like in 20 years’ time?’,” he said.
“Do we want them to be residencies, or do we want them to be mini-Gold Coasts and Noosas of Tasmania?
“From our perspective, we think Tasmania’s strength is its vibrant, diverse mix of communities that visitors really want to engage with.”
LGAT’s Katrena Stephenson said there were very low numbers of permits through the councils, compared to the number of properties listed on short-stay websites.
“It is impossible to understand the impact based on council data because it’s simply insufficient,” she said.
“If we had the data from Airbnb and Stayz we could cross-check that against our permits and get a better picture of how the impact is occurring in particular communities.”
Dr Stephenson said the State Government needed to contribute to a broad community education campaign around what permits were required.
“I think there has been a general misunderstanding that, because the word ‘deregulation’ was used, there is no permit required,” she said.
“That is not the case.
“While most Airbnb properties will be permitted they are still required to lodge an application with councils and to make a declaration around the safety of their residence.”
Earlier this year Housing Minister, Roger Jaensch, announced $500,000 for what he called “immediate emergency accommodation options” for Hobart.
It followed a housing summit held earlier this month, which identified nine solutions for the rental shortage crippling southern Tasmania.