Our apartment buildings could very soon be invaded, thanks to Airbnb

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A new framework for regulating Airbnb and other short-stay accommodation platforms is apparently set to go before the NSW cabinet on Thursday.

Many short-term tenants are on holidays and more likely to party.

Many short-term tenants are on holidays and more likely to party.

On behalf of people who live in and own apartments, consider this our last minute plea for sensible, democratic reforms to short-term holiday letting. Apartment owners should have the right to decide on whether short-term stays are allowed in our buildings, which we pay to maintain.

Short-term tenants bring extra wear and tear on lifts, pools, gyms, and common laundries.  They are often on holidays and are more likely to have a good time on their balconies, turn up the music and have parties. The government can introduce whatever party measures it wants, but let’s face it, our homes are not a controlled precinct like Kings Cross where the government can regulate against fun.

When it comes to holiday letting, apartment owners who live with it, and pay for it, should be able to vote on whether we will wear those costs in return for extra rental potential.

In discussions with the NSW government, one minister told us that they supported our right to decide and we welcomed that. Another asked if we thought a code of conduct or measures to crackdown on party houses would work. We said it wasn’t enough, and that piecemeal measures treated a symptom, not a problem.

I like self-regulation as much as the next business person, but those measures sound like something cooked up in Airbnb headquarters. Implementing their idea would be akin to getting a hangover relief strategy from Jim Beam.

The rise of Airbnb has taken properties off the long-term rental market, according to the University of Sydney.

The rise of Airbnb has taken properties off the long-term rental market, according to the University of Sydney.

Photo: Peter Braig

We know that 70 per cent of newly approved dwellings in NSW are for apartments, but open slather on holiday letting will disincentivise apartment living.

And the University of Sydney’s Urban Housing Lab has found that short-term letting has already removed 6,000 entire properties from the long-term rental market throughout NSW. Short-term platforms put upward pressure on rents, and downward pressure on supply.

We know the government is considering an option to limit the number of days that you can “Airbnb” a property, but this causes new problems. There are already stories about people being forced to sign 11-month leases so that landlords can cash in on extra Airbnb rates at Christmas time. Limiting the number of days you can rent a place on Airbnb would encourage this further.

And we have no idea how such a limit would affect people who own beach houses in places like the Northern Beaches, or on the South Coast or Far North Coast, who have based their investments (and loans) on Airbnb revenue.

Labor, the Greens and independents have all flagged support for our argument. Now the government must do the right thing and give apartment owners the democratic right to decide if they want short-term holiday makers in their building. These are our strata communities – and it should be our choice.

Stephen Goddard is a director of the Owners Corporation Network.

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