Short-stays behind property price pain

By We Live Here

The Victorian Government must address the state’s unregulated commercial short-stay industry, if it’s serious about fixing Melbourne’s housing affordability crisis.

New  statistics show the city’s average unit price is now $564,540 – up 2.1 per cent in the last quarter. The median house price rose to $818,000.

Melbourne is now at risk of experiencing the same housing affordability issues hurting families and crippling the Sydney market.

The situation was already at a crisis point back in July – when housing affordability in Melbourne was at its lowest level since surveys began in 2000.

According to the ABS, Victoria has the highest population growth rate in the country – rising by 2.4 per cent from March 2016 to March 2017.

The figures show the problem is only getting worse as more and more properties are taken off the rental market and listed on to commercial short-stay platforms like Airbnb.

A study from the University of Sydney clearly showed the link between the city’s housing affordability crisis and commercial short-stay platforms.

It revealed an estimated 6000 homes had been removed from the rental market and placed on commercial providers.

It showed there were 1268 properties listed on Airbnb – equivalent to 144 per cent of vacant rentals in the entire city!

But despite all of this, what is the Victorian Government doing to fix the crisis?

Last year the Government proposed legislation which heavily favoured Airbnb, making supply problems even worse.

This month, at the launch of the Northcote by-election it targeted rental-bidding apps as a means to fix rental affordability and totally ignored the problems caused by short-term letting.

Rental reforms target the wrong apps

The Victorian Government’s rental app reform is targeting the wrong problem and the wrong apps, and will do nothing to place downward pressure on skyrocketing property prices.

It’s not the introduction of bidding apps that got us to where we are today.

It is predominantly supply issues, and it is the multi-billion dollar, unregulated platform Airbnb that is driving down the supply of units that would otherwise be on the rental market.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of a ban on bidding apps is lost if someone in your building can put five apartments on Airbnb and no one has the power to do anything about it.

If it wants to make renting fairer and more affordable then the Government must take action now to place downward pressure on prices, and the first place to start is the unregulated short-stay industry.

Unlike bidding apps, the Airbnb app is not some emerging issue – it is real, present and is driving up prices right now.

At the very least, strata members should be given the right to decide if Airbnb and other commercial short-stay operators are allowed to operate within their buildings.

We Live Here is a growing movement providing a voice for residents living in apartment blocks and now represents more than 200 buildings across Melbourne.

In addition to important concerns about affordability, residents have also experienced significant problems with Airbnb in relation to safety and security, wear and tear and amenity.

The government is considering a range of recommendations after a parliamentary committee found its proposed reforms to the short-stay industry were inadequate and unfair to residents.

Clearly, giving owners’ corporations the right of self-determination when it comes to Airbnb and commercial short-term letting is an important measure that levels the playing field for residents, who’ve had no say for too long.

These are the significant reforms our state needs to fix the affordability and supply problems that are making it so difficult for locals in Northcote and across the greater Melbourne area.

No comfort on tram bridge 

Contrary to the report of comments made by residents in 2013 and cited in Docklands News last month, the Yarra’s Edge community today is not happy with the bridge concept.

Led by Phil Spender they have been long-term, vocal opponents of the scheme and welcomed the announcement in 2015 by the new Minister for Planning Richard Wynne that the tram bridge had been “ruled out”.

Apart from loss of amenity, other issues concerning We Live Here members in the area in relation to the tram bridge include:

The effect on two parks on either side of the Yarra. Docklands has been poorly treated with public open spaces, in the overdevelopment of the area. Compare the lavish parklands on the north, east and south of the CBD.

Congestion in Collins St, west of Harbour Esplanade: Four Lend Lease towers at 883 – 889 Collins (1200 apartments) have been completed, with at least four more planned or under construction towards the Bolte Bridge. ANZ II is also under construction. Where was the transport analysis? A tram bridge will make things worse as the trams cross and stop the single lane of traffic.

We Live Here calls on Richard Wynne to honour his promise, to listen to community concerns and not bow to the pressures of big business in Fisherman’s Bend. There must be an alternative solution.

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.

You can reach us at campaign@welivehere.net.au. We Live Here members can make a presentation to your owners’ corporation committee upon request.

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

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