The Airbnb fallacy

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Their PR image. – Airbnb is integral to the modern sharing economy, a disruptor to the hotel industry business model.

Well, there is so much more to this story.

The majority of Airbnb Melbourne city listings are entire homes/apartments. They are causing untold disruption to normal residential housing, communities, culture and the rental market. Far more than just disrupting the hotel industry.

Basic philosophy, “primum non nocere“ – first, do no harm. A very old tenet, reaching back through history, religions, the plethora of schools of thought, medicine, and common law.

Has 21st century living forgotten this basic decree?

Everything seems to focus on money and what we must get away with and turn a blind eye to, all in the pursuit of profit.

~In Melbourne there are 20,400 listings for Airbnb.
Of which 12,430 (60%) are entire homes/apartments short term lets.
Port Phillip, has 1,923 entire homes/apartments listed, (73% ).
Most of the disturbance complaints from surrounding neighbours, especially in apartment blocks emanate from entire lets.

I do not begrudge the homeowner who lets out spare rooms and remains living on the property, hosting their visitors. It is a different scenario with the entire rent outs, with well over 30% being absentee owner, that are causing most of the liveability problems. Available year-round to tourists, not fully legal, gentrifying neighbourhoods, reducing available normal term rental stock and displacing established long-term, vulnerable renters.

The worst situation is where a home/apartment is booked through Airbnb for a weekend party. (known as air party bookings).
The poor neighbours have to contend with the coming and going at all hours, of unknown rowdy people in party mode. No one taking any responsibility for partygoers behaviour, or their impact on neighbourhood amenity. A nightmare in apartment blocks.

I feel for people who have bought apartments, mortgaged to the hilt and now find themselves next door to a full-time AirBnB, being run primarily for profit with little consideration for others. Strangers coming and going instead of regular faces would be unsettling.
Most apartments are not designed for this type of occupancy. Common areas become over used and not properly cleaned by visitors. Public indemnity insurance policies for the whole apartment block can be compromised due to the commercial nature of just one Airbnb, or the insurance fee increased to commercial level for all residents.
The nuisance factor, young travellers are well known for loud music and revelry to all hours. The whole Airbnb short-term rental business model operating with absentee owners is opportunistic. It shifts the burden onto neighbours who lose peace and sanctuary, common areas, and feelings of security. All solely for the benefit of the owner, living at a safe distance elsewhere and apt to ignore or feign all knowledge of such events when presented with complaints.

Apartment block communities should have the power to restrict short-term letting in their building, protecting bona fide residents. State gov’t and local councils should help stamp out the abuse of AirBnB short term, absentee letting.

*“The City of Sydney has lately changed its original stance on Airbnb and is now in favour of owners having the final say on whether short-term lets should be allowed in their apartment buildings“.

I can remember back in the 70’s when short-term renting in residential blocks was not permitted, both here and in Sydney. Somehow this has all evaporated into the ether and at present is open slather, with little or no protection for legitimate residents.

Further reading:
Airbnb horror stories from America – http://insideairbnb.com/

* The City of Sydney – http://planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=8525

~ Port Phillip AirBnB listings – http://insideairbnb.com/melbourne/

Alan West
friendsofstkilda.com.au

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