Sam McDonagh, the Country Manager for Airbnb in Australia, talks about lifting the bans on short-term rentals
NSW Government gives qualified support to lifting bans on short-term rentals
Ross Greenwood: Now, a story which is out at the moment and affects New South Wales but, ultimately, will go around the country, is that the New South Wales government has handed down a response in regards to an inquiry that they’ve had for short-term holiday letting. In other words, what we’re talking here is Airbnb. Now, what they’re talking about in the past is there have been bans on short-term rentals, but what happens is, that a little bit like oh this sharing economy but this is the whole sharing economy. If you can actually allow legally these short-term rentals through, then it’s going to allow a lot more people, particularly in apartments, to let them out via the website and as a result, earn some extra cash. What is going to happen is the Planning and Housing minister, Anthony Roberts, says, “Extra time will be worthwhile, as the public needs to have that say, but it’s effectively people living in strata blocks.” This is apartments, quite clearly, that want to rent out their rooms, that they’ve got to get involved in this policy.
Let’s now go to Airbnb’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Sam McDonough, who’s on the line right now. Many thanks for your time, Sam. Just explain to me where is this up to because the fact is people are already doing this — many people doing it potentially are breaching the law.
Sam: Well certainly, that Airbnb is certainly not illegal anywhere in Australia, but there are varying regulations and guidelines across the country and that can be confusing. The one thing that we always hear from our host is they’re looking for certainty. I think where the New South Wales government is heading with this is going to provide that. The consultation that the government has announced today is going to allow New South Wales to provide residents with clear and simple statewide rules and regulations.
Ross Greenwood: Okay, just explain to me, that’s going to be on the New South Wales’ basis, how does it work? Is it different in different states or is this likely to become uniform across the country?
Sam: Well, one of the things that we continue to do is work with governments at all levels and interestingly, we’ve had South Australia and Tasmania come out in the last 12 months, with, certainly, very progressive and fair regulations for Airbnb hosting guests.
Ross: Okay. Let’s say, for example, as I pointed out, it appears here, this is about strata title apartments and whether the body corporate, which might have rules that say, “Well, you can’t rent it out or you can’t rent it out whatever it might be.” This is also something that potentially is that this legislation would override any sort of bylaw that might be inside that body corporates articles of association.
Sam: Well, certainly what the government is looking to provide is the degree of balance and we certainly support that. We know that this needs to be horses for courses and I think the way that the government is approaching this is in a very fair way and we’re certainly supportive of that.
Ross Greenwood: All right. You’re saying all the right things, but what I’m trying to get at is a practical level. If I’m on the body corporate and we decided as a body corporate that we don’t want any short-term letting inside there and somebody’s discovered to be doing that. The question is with the law that maybe implemented or that you are seeking would override that body corporates rules of association. Is that really what this is all about?
Sam: It’s certainly part of the investigation that the government has taken over a significant period of time in the last 18 months and the recommendations that they have put forward. I think what we want to do is provide the opportunities that anyone to have the right to share their home whether or not that’s an entire home or a strata body. Now, of course, we know that things are different when housing is more dense as it might be in an apartment building or otherwise and, of course, the amenity of those folks that are in those homes are going to be different. We want to work with the government to come up with the right kind of regulations for those and that which is fair as well.
Ross Greenwood: Because let’s, for example, say that I’ve got a two-bedroom apartment and I want to go away at Christmas time and I want to rent that out behind me or indeed that I own three two-bedroom apartments and I try and get them permanently on the Airbnb and I pretty much take what comes and what may. They’re two totally different situations, of course, one might be very quiet people, you know, you put them in there. The fundamental problem is, I guess, in very dense areas having strangers wandering around those areas with keys to be able to get access and so forth to common areas, that’s where you’re going to have potential conflict with other neighbors, isn’t it?
Sam: Yes. Well, the thing that we see is that the overwhelming majority of the Airbnb hosting guests have good neighbors and respectful travelers, so any issues of any kind are incredibly rare but when they do happen, we want to work to make things right and we have measures in place for those very rare instances that take place. We want to make sure that the vast majority of good neighbors are protected. I think one of the things that they’re talking about here is that this is a whole generation aspect to this and there’s some folks that are only going to be able to afford to live in some of this strata buildings. That shouldn’t mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to be part of the home sharing community and it’s the fundamental rights issue.
Number of listings on Airbnb Australia
Ross Greenwood: Just tell me, how many listings have you got across Australia right now?
Sam: Across Australia, we have more than 100,000 listings and in New South Wales more than 40,000 listings.
Ross Greenwood: In other words, the business has grown and is still growing pretty quickly, that would be fair.
Sam: Look, that’s absolutely fair. Australians love Airbnb and continue to embrace it in significant numbers. In fact, in a recent report from Deloitte, they found that travelers that were staying in Airbnb across Australia contributed in the 12 months to 30th June 2016, more than 1.6 billion of incremental spend in the community.
Ross Greenwood: Okay. The other thing also with 100,000 listings, if you like, or homes that are up and available, how many of those do you imagine would be in strata apartment new blocks? Is there any view on that as to how many over there?
Sam: Certainly, the thing that we do know is that more than 80% of the homes that are shared on Airbnb, the homes that they live in every day so they’re people’s principle primary residence. We also know that more than or approximately 60% are entire homes and about 40% are shared rooms in existing homes. It really varies in terms of what are strata and what are watering by homes.
Ross Greenwood: I’ll tell you what, great to have you on the program. Sam McDonough. We’ll come back to you in the future because it’s such an interesting area and it’s obviously one that people are embracing. It’s not without its controversy and I think everybody would acknowledge and understand that, but it still is one of these areas that many people see as being highly convenient, to be able to earn some extra dollars when they go away. But then, when you’re in very densely populated areas, that also can cause potential conflict if, at the very least, with the body corporates. Sam McDonough, we appreciate your time.
Sam: Thanks very much, Ross.
Ross Greenwood: Sam McDonough there. That’s a really good subject, that one as well. 131-873 is our number. I want your views about whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. If you live in apartment blocks, if you rent them out, whatever it might be. Tell me your experience, we’d love to hear from you here on Money News