Now Labor can work with residents

We Live Here

In the fallout from the state poll we hope that Labor politicians remember that they have been elected to represent people.

Both major parties disappointed the electorate by failing to articulate any policies to help residents in strata communities – all 1.6 million of us whose voices have not been and are not being heard.

Neither the Labor nor Liberal pre-election platforms made any mention of residents.

A flyer letter-boxed in Melbourne district from Premier Andrews contained nothing about issues affecting inner city living.

Mr Andrews also turned down an invitation to the We Live Here “meet the candidates” forum. The Premier previously declined an invitation to attend our launch and has refused numerous other requests to engage with us over the past three years.

The Premier’s victory speech similarly did not mention inner-city residents.

The sole Labor candidate at our pre-election forum, Jennifer Kanis, stated her support of We Live Here and a willingness to work with us if elected. At the time of writing, the electoral fate of Jennifer Kanis was still in the balance. Either way, without the official backing of Labor we are afraid that her sentiments may not count for much.

The Greens through Ellen Sandell and Samantha Ratnam along with Fiona Patten of the Reason Party have all been supportive of We Live Here and the regulation of the short-stay industry. But with reduced clout in parliament, the Greens and independents will not be able to achieve much.

So now Mr Andrews, it is time for Labor to take positive action and implement significant changes to support inner-city residents.

Work with council

Whatever the outcome of the next few weeks of political change, we hope the state government can learn to work collaboratively with the City of Melbourne.

The two tiers of government must work closely on issues around short-stays as well as other issues affecting residents including cladding, traffic congestion, planning, and the tram bridge.

Buildings fight back

Owners’ corporation (OC) committees are becoming stronger and more united and are taking matters into their own hands – dispelling the fake news that OCs are dysfunctional or apathetic.

Many OC committees have expressed to We Live Here that they are prepared to risk VCAT action to ensure that their long-term residents – owner-occupiers and tenants – can enjoy the amenity of their Class Two residential building not designed for ersatz hotel-style accommodation.

To do this, short-stay operators and those who book short-term accommodation via on-line booking platforms – Airbnb, Stayz, etc – are forced to comply with in-house rules. However, this comes at a huge cost to the OC in terms of increased surveillance, security and maintenance which is paid for out of levies.

There must surely be some government MPs, old and new, who are aware of the short-stay issue overseas and mindful of what cities such as Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and San Francisco have been doing to regulate the short-stay industry.

A recent report released by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute stated that short-term letting helps to “reinforce the increasingly inequitable housing landscape in Australia’s largest cities”, contradicting a report commissioned by Airbnb, and that a more comprehensive approach is needed to monitor and regulate the industry.

With its increased majority, this government must stop burying its head in the sand and take some action, allowing residents a seat at the table to ensure there is a level playing field for all so that the government is not seen to be kowtowing to multi-nationals like Airbnb.

We congratulate Daniel Andrews on his big win and invite him, as a matter of priority, to convene a meeting with representatives of We Live Here early in the term of his new government.

What do we want?

We Live Here calls on the Andrews government to:

1. AMEND the Owners Corporation Act 2006 to regulate the short-stay industry – far beyond the scope of the woefully inadequate pro-Airbnb “party” bill that was shamefully passed just before the election. The Airbnb “party” bill made it even harder for OCs to recoup costs of damage and it completely ignored issues of security, amenity and community development;

2. RESTORE POWERS to OCs to make decisions about use of a lot, lost in Justice Riordan’s Supreme Court decision in July 2017;

3. GIVE POWERS to OCs to determine if short-stays should be permitted;

4. REVISE the proposed scheme for individual owners to take out a bank loan to remediate flammable cladding and repay the loan via their council rates – which would be unworkable; and

5. ENGAGE with We Live Here. Talk to us – we represent more than 200 buildings throughout Melbourne and Victoria. We can help you understand how to look after strata communities.

Campaign donations

As a not-for-profit organisation, donations from individuals and buildings keep our campaigns going. To register as a supporter of We Live Here or to make a donation please visit our website at welivehere.net.

We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests.

We welcome your comments and feedback and invite suggestions for topics you would like us to address in this column.

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