Regulations could level playing field

RECOMMENDATIONS: A parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation could introduce changes for Airbnb hosts. Picture: FILE PHOTO

RECOMMENDATIONS: A parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation could introduce changes for Airbnb hosts. Picture: FILE PHOTO

Recommendations from an inquiry into short-stay accommodation will effectively level the playing field between accommodation operators.

A parliamentary committee held an inquiry into the bill to amend the Owners Corporation Act and raised nine recommendations.

The government's short-stay bill was first read into parliament last year, but it is not yet law.

Short-stay accommodation is is defined as a lease or licence for a maximum of 7 days and 6 nights.

One of the main concerns was about the imbalance in regulations between short-stay and traditional (hotel) sectors.

Short-stay accommodation – which includes accommodation options such as Airbnb – is legal in Victoria though largely unregulated.

Bendigo Motels Association president Simon Wurf said motel owners had wanted a level playing field for a long time.

“(Motel owners) work to a certain set rules and regulations,” he said.

“If (the recommendations) are implemented, the Bendigo Motels Association believes it would help to have everyone going through same rigorous inspections we do – to meet that minimum standard.

“That (short-stay) hosts are offering the same or similar service without have to adhere to the regulations that we have to is our biggest frustration.”

The inquiry’s recommendations encouraged the bill to be amended to aid owner’s corporations in regulating safety procedures in apartment complexes and dealing with unruly characters.

It was also recommended that the Office of the Commissioner for Better Regulation reviews the regulatory imbalance between the short‑stay and traditional accommodation sectors.

Short-stay accommodation where the owners are present in the dwelling were found to have little impact on the amenity and safety of other residents and should be embraced by government.

Protocols could be established in conjunction with owners corporations to manage unruly guests.

Owners corporations in apartment blocks could also be allowed to introduce levy fees on short-stay hosts to cover increased maintenance and repair costs.

Airbnb hosts add to local rental woes

Bendigo Motels Association president Simon Wurf believes people investing in properties to use as short-stay holiday houses are reducing affordable rental options for local families. 

Mr Wurf said affordable rental accommodation for local families is disappearing.

PROPRIETORS: Bendigo Motel owners Charlie Loftus with Simon Wurf and Brent Curran are concerned about the rise of Airbnb. Picture: DARREN HOWE

PROPRIETORS: Bendigo Motel owners Charlie Loftus with Simon Wurf and Brent Curran are concerned about the rise of Airbnb. Picture: DARREN HOWE

“I see it as taking properties out of the (local) rental market,” he said.

“It is only anecdotal, but over the last few years I believe people investing in properties (to use as short-stay homes) has increased.

“There is one around the corner from me that an investor bought and it is available for $200 a night through Stayz.

“(Investment property owners) think rather than getting $250 a week and renting to a family, they should rent it out on weekends and get $450.”

Mr Wurf said a rise in short-stay holiday homes would reduce rental options for families and students.

“Bendigo is a university town and Airbnb hosts may argue that La Trobe has a residnce now but I do wonder if it would be harder to rent a property because there is less properties in the rental pool,” he said.

“If the government didn’t want to regulate (short-stay properties) then they could tax a property owner that uses an investment property as a short-term holiday home.

“That is a direct, immediate answer. If you want to operate a home as short-stay accommodation, pay a tax.”

According to airdna.co, Greater Bendigo has 279 short-stay listings from 211 active hosts. The annual median occupancy rate for the listings is 60 per cent.

Haven Home Safe marketing and communications director Sue Masters said short-stay holiday accommodation is not a major impact on homeless issues in the region.

She said financial stress, housing affordability, inadequate or unsafe housing and no housing being available at all were the top drivers of homelessness in central Victoria.

“Short-stay accommodation has very little, if any impact on the number of people seeking permanent rental accommodation,” she said.

Ms Masters said 58 rough sleepers and 176 people in housing crisis had come to Haven Home Safe in Bendigo since April 1.

“Most of them are homeless, couch surfing or staying in overcrowded accommodation,” she said.

Short-stay accommodation has been in the spotlight with the Environment and Planning Committee conducting an inquiry into the Owners Corporation Act 2006.

The inquiry raised nine recommendations that could lead to a level the playing field of short-stay accommodation options.

Short-stay accommodation is legal in Victoria though largely unregulated.

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