The sharing economy shouldn’t become the taking economy
By Ellen Sandell Melbourne MLA
27 September 2016
A lot has been said about the new “sharing economy”, where people can
share or lease their assets that would potentially go unused, like
cars, rooms or entire houses.
The skyrocketing popularity of sharing economy services like Uber and
AirBnB shows that there is a demand for these services and that they
are here to stay.
the “exploiting economy”
But we must not let the “sharing economy” become the “taking economy” or the “exploiting economy”.
Many CBD [Central Business District] and Docklands residents have
shared their concerns with me about short-stay apartments taking over
their communities, sometimes facilitated by AirBnB.
I am not opposed to the sharing economy. In our resource-constrained
world, we need to better share our assets and it’s great to find new,
innovative ways of doing this. However, sometimes, platforms like
AirBnB can be exploited and used to get around tax and regulations, and
impact adversely on residents.
Many residents were sold apartments in the CBD, Southbank and Docklands
with the vision that they would get to live in a lovely high-rise
community with all the benefit that that provides, including their
neighbours being close by and being close to the city.
up to 50% of the apartments are short-term rentals
Many of these residents were shocked when they moved into their
apartments and discovered that up to 50 per cent of the apartments in
their buildings, sometimes more, were being leased out for just two or
three nights a week to different tenants each week.
permanent residents subsidizing short-term rentals
This meant that their sense of community and the long-term neighbours
they hoped to get to know did not eventuate. It meant things like long
waits for the lifts as cleaners ferried linen up and down the building
every day. It meant communal property like lifts had to be replaced
much more than normal at the expense of the permanent residents and the
owners’ corporations, because they were not actually designed for the
extra traffic associated with constant short-stay guests. It meant
extra security concerns as a result of these extra short-stay guests
who were unknown to the permanent residents.
It also impacts on housing affordability, as people buy apartments
specifically to lease out to short-term guests full-time, meaning fewer
properties are available to renters or owner-occupiers. This pushes up
the price of housing for people who need to live in our city, like
essential workers, and those on lower incomes.
This problem is not unique to Melbourne, but unfortunately Melbourne has not had a government willing to deal with the issue.
Other cities have grappled with this problem, and some have sought to
introduce laws that balance the rights of residents to participate in
the sharing economy while also addressing housing affordability and the
challenges of short-stay accommodation.
restrict it to just genuine permanent residents
For example, San Francisco and Seattle are considering laws that would
put a cap on the number of days a resident can rent out their property
to short-stay tenants over the course of a year, and restrict it to
just genuine permanent residents. This would stop people buying
apartments solely for the purpose of putting them on AirBnB full-time,
but still allow people to put their apartments on AirBnB when they
occasionally go on holidays.
Ideas like this could also be effective solutions to the challenges we
face here in Victoria, but unfortunately the Labor Government has
refused to look at them.
I’ve presented a motion on this issue to the Victorian Parliament which
has remained on the Notice Paper for months, with Labor refusing to
allow a debate on it. Their only solution has been the patchy
Owners Corporations Amendment (Short Stay Accommodation) Bill 2016.
Labor’s Bill puts the onus on residents to complain to their owners’
corporation which in turn could take action at the Victorian Civil and
Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). VCAT then would not be able to take
meaningful action against owners or occupiers until there are at least
three complaints in a two-year period. That’s even assuming an owner’s
corporation does anything with a complaint in the first place.
The Labor Government has to take responsibility for legislating for
short-stay accommodation because it is a state-wide problem, not one
limited to one building or neighbourhood. Labor’s Bill puts the
burden of tackling issues that arise with short stays on residents. Its
Bill doesn’t prevent problems – it’s a complaints mechanism at best.
The Greens sought to have this Bill deferred until proper consultation
was done with the community on this issue, but both Labor and the
Liberals voted against this idea.
We must do better. Our governments should find ways to deal with these
issues, because fundamentally it’s about creating the kind of city we
want to live in—one where we foster community, just not private profit.
chapter previous next