Short-stays will endanger COVID recovery

Open letter to the Minister for Consumer Affairs (CAV) and the Minister for Health and Human Services (DHHS)

Dear Ministers,

The COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide collapse of tourism has demonstrated what years of lobbying has failed to do: that there is no place for short-stay operations in high-rise residential buildings. 

The problem is fundamental: it’s impossible to limit the spread of the deadly virus or to enforce social distancing rules in a short-stay environment. 

Under COVID restrictions, the majority of commercial short-stay operators have abandoned our buildings and some have gone out of business altogether. Airbnb is on its knees.

Former short-stay apartments have been sold or are now earning more income from being rented out long-term.

Residents have rediscovered the security, safety and amenity of their homes, that had been lost during the rampant years of greedy commercial short-stay operators who make no contribution to the wear and tear of the buildings they invade.

WE MUST NOT ALLOW THE SHORT-STAY PROBLEMS TO RETURN AND THREATEN PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY.

Ministers, several things need to happen as Melbourne gradually emerges from lockdown. 

We Live Here would like to engage with both of you so that you have a better understanding of how apartments in high-rise strata communities are not appropriate for short-term letting by commercial operators.

The Owners’ Corporation Short-Stay Amendment Act 2018, backed by Airbnb and the two former Ministers for Consumer Affairs, but opposed by an all-party Parliamentary Inquiry, is due for review in February 2021 and must be scrapped.   

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) must provide a public health road map for managing the return of visitors, so that we do not compromise what we have achieved at such sacrifice during the pandemic. 

Ministers, we look forward to meeting with you to resolve these urgent issues.

P.S. Our chief grievance is with whole-apartment, commercial operators rather than individual owners renting out a room in the apartment they are occupying, the genesis of short-term letting platforms. Commercial operators should pay higher levies for additional wear and tear, and we need a comprehensive registration system.

Global coalition against Airbnb IPO ethics

We Live Here is a signatory on an official submission to the New York Stock Exchange regarding the forthcoming listing by Airbnb.

The submission by a global coalition of community groups asks US financial regulators – the SEC – to require Airbnb to disclose its revenue from commercial operators, the hosts who run multiple listings. The data could reveal how much of Airbnb’s inventory might be affected if more cities enforce even reasonable regulations controlling the practice. 

Barcelona, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Paris and Prague have all enacted laws to control commercial short-stays.

The global coalition argues that Airbnb’s public pronouncements have repeatedly proven false, dissimulating and inaccurate, often directly contradicted by independent analysts and actual practices. The myth of “home sharing” covers up the vital role commercial operators play in the Airbnb business model. And the “ban on party houses” line is trotted out for every tragic incident. 

“This is one IPO that shouldn’t come to market without a thorough vetting by the SEC,” JJ Fueser of Fairbnb Canada said. 

Lord Mayor speaks out on short-stays

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp has spoken out on short-stay issues while addressing the Residents 3000 AGM.

The Lord Mayor said that more needs to be done for the 83 per cent of Melburnians who live in apartments, and that there is no satisfactory legislation to manage short-stays because the current legislation “did not go far enough”. 

Ms Capp expressed concern about the impact on residents in terms of amenity, safety in our own building and increased wear and tear costs.

Speaking to We Live Here, Ms Capp said she had previously contemplated a type of charter between the council and Airbnb but was unaware of the impact of the pandemic on the platform’s business model. Also, the Lord Mayor did not know about the commercial operators with multiple listings, a reality that could make a charter with Airbnb meaningless.

Ms Capp also said the hotel industry has complained that there is no level playing field in terms of regulations for health and safety, taxes and general legal compliance requirements.

This is where we are all in agreement: proper regulation is essential to manage the competing interests of tourism with the expectation of residents to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. 

As Melbourne emerges from lockdown, we hope that lessons learnt from this pandemic will lead us towards proper regulation. 

Cladding update

The recent Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) Bill will formally separate CSV from the Victorian Building Authority and establish CSV as the responsible authority for delivering the Cladding Rectification Program. The Bill will also increase the time limit for pursuing legal action against builders by an extra two years. 

CSV is now seeking expressions of interest for a clerk of works.

If you have some feedback on how the rectification programme is working for your building, including how it will be paid for, please let us know.

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 donate, please visit our website at welivehere.net.
We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests •

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