Short-stay violence spurs action

The short-stay industry is facing regulation on both sides of the Atlantic in Canada and France as city governments try to resolve safety and community concerns.

In Toronto, the city has passed new regulations requiring owners to live at the premises and to register with the local government as a short-stay provider.

In introducing the new rules, the government had argued that the short-stay industry incentivised landlords to remove housing stock from the long-term market.

Toronto mayor John Tory says regulating the industry is a step in the right direction in “keeping our neighbourhood liveable”.

In Paris, the city government has limited short-stays to 120 nights per year and insisted on property registration. Like Toronto, Paris has accused Airbnb of compromising community safety and exacerbating the housing affordability crisis. 

Multinational Airbnb has resisted the new rules on both sides of the Atlantic with arguments focusing on “host and guest safety”. 

Rocked by increasingly frequent reports of violence and the Halloween deaths in the United States, Airbnb has hit back with a very narrow safety message. Amazingly, the multinational operator makes no mention of “community” safety as it resists global moves to regulate the industry.

The deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, lashed out at Airbnb, tweeting that it is “totally irresponsible given the disastrous consequences Airbnb has had on our towns and cities. We are dealing with a company that doesn’t have the means to pay its taxes in France but can find the means to sign a deal with the IOC (International Olympic Committee).”

Paris City Hall is also taking legal action against Airbnb for payment of a €12.5m (AUD $20 million) fine for failing to remove hosts who failed to register.

Globally, the move to have hosts register their properties is seen as an essential measure.

Following the Airbnb Halloween deaths in the USA the company has started a campaign to restore trust in the brand, setting up a hotline for hosts who feel threatened by guests.

What about the neighbours? We don’t figure in the Airbnb economic equation. 

If we must argue on economics – a favourite tactic of Airbnb – let’s talk about the tax that is not paid. 

In Australia, Airbnb pays about 3 per cent of the GST that any other accommodation provider pays. This massive tax rort is tolerated by both state and federal governments.

NSW taking on short-stay fire risks

An announcement by the NSW state government that it is tackling fire risks associated with the short-stay industry, is welcome news. 

We Live Here has met dogged resistance from the Victorian state government even to consider this issue. We have long campaigned on the nexus between short-stays, the infamous cladding debacle and the need to take immediate action, but it has fallen on deaf ears.

A new proposal by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will require short-stay hosts to take basic fire safety measure to protect guests and neighbours.  

Under the plan, all short-stay premises would be required to have integrated smoke alarms in bedrooms and corridors, heat sensors in kitchens, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, emergency exit lights and evacuation maps.

These safety measures sound like basic requisites that you would expect to be in place in any commercial accommodation business, including a short-stay apartment.

So, what does Airbnb think of regulations to mandate fire safety in short-stays? 

According to Domain, Airbnb public affairs manager Julian Crowley says it’s “grossly unfair”.

If he really said that, this appalling attitude would just expose the Airbnb so-called safety message for what it is – disingenuous, marketing spin.

Victorian residents on their own in the cladding debacle

Unless you live in one of the handful of buildings on the anonymous list of high-risk buildings that will receive government funding, OCs are now being forced to take out loans to remove their combustible cladding. Owners can look forward to increased levies for years to come, resale of apartments will become more difficult and a drop in property prices will be inevitable.

Further, if you don’t take responsibility for removing your cladding you can expect repeated building orders from your municipal council to ensure compliance. 

In our view it is a dereliction of duty by the state government to require residents to take full responsibility for something they had no say in. 

Government report card

Following their resounding success in the 1918 election We Live Here called on the state 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.

No evidence of anything positive has emerged since the passage of the Bill, but one owner was recently reported as keeping a baseball bat near his front door after a stranger wandered into his apartment!

2. Restore powers to OCs to make decisions about use of a lot, which were lost in Justice Riordan’s Supreme Court decision in July 2017.

Has not happened.

3. Give powers to OCs to determine if short-stays should be permitted.

Has not happened.

4. Revise the proposed (unworkable) scheme for individual owners to take out a bank loan to remediate flammable cladding and repay the loan via their council rates.

A handful of high-risk buildings are to be provided funding by the government. The hundreds of buildings deemed a moderate risk have been ignored – see above.

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.

Not much has happened since we were invited to a meeting at the Minister for Consumer Affairs’ Office in June and were invited to provide a submission on the Exposure Draft of the Amendments to the Owners Corporation Act 2006, the deficiencies of which we have previously reported on. 

The Bill was introduced into Parliament in September, but has now stalled and there is no indication when debate will resume. However, we will be monitoring progress very closely.

6. Final Report from a disappointing year: D – could do much better.

With community support from all Victorians ‘We Live Here’ will continue to lobby the government until it starts to listen to us. 

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.

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