Fireworks as strata owners launch fighting fund to keep short-stay rentals out
31 December 2016
As Sydney readies for its biggest balcony-busting night of the holiday
rental year, a group of high-powered apartment owners has launched a
fighting fund to keep short-stay lets out of residential apartment
The group claims most owners don’t want short-stay lets in their buildings.
The view from an Airbnb property at Millers Point with a rental price of $3200 for two nights. Photo: Airbnb
It has raised $60,000 in donations and is now preparing for a bitter fight for the right to stay “residential-only”.
Airbnb hosts are able to charge more than $1,500 a night over the New
Year’s Eve weekend, and are reluctant to give up this income.
“We’re not anti-Airbnb or anyone else,” said retired music teacher Dr
Michael Heaney, chairman of the owners corporation at the Maestri
Towers in Kent St and a member of the board of the Owners Corporation
Network, the peak organisation for apartment owners.
The view from an apartment at Darling Harbour rented for $824 a night on Airbnb. Photo: Airbnb
“We are pro-choice and pro-democracy. If unit blocks want to have
short-stay lets, that’s their choice. But the vast majority of owners
should also have the right to keep their homes as residential only, the
basis on which they were bought.”
Owners corporations in NSW can’t ban short-stay lets, such as those
offered by online agencies like Airbnb and Stayz. But they can, with a
75 per cent vote, pass by-laws supporting residential-only zoning. This
means residential lets must be for a minimum of 30 days, far longer
than the usual short-term rentals offered online.
Earlier this year a parliamentary inquiry recommended that short-stay
lets should be exempt from zoning restrictions. Critics say that would
open the door to unlimited holiday letting in the city’s best-located,
best-managed and therefore most attractive apartment blocks.
Representatives from about 60 Sydney city apartment blocks met before
Christmas to pledge financial support to fight the proposal.
Within a week, the group had raised more than $60,000, double the
initial target of $30,000. The organisers hope to raise $300,000, a sum
they say they’ll need to match the deep pockets of organisations such
Asked about the creation of the fighting fund, a spokesman for Airbnb
said it had participated in an 18-month parliamentary inquiry process
and questioned if any of the participants in the recent meeting had
Dr Heaney claims he presented a “detailed report” to the inquiry
“showing, in hard facts and figures, how much holiday lets cost owners
in additional wear and tear and management costs”.
This saved Maestri Towers several million dollars and lowered levies
substantially after driving short-stay lets out of the building, he
Parliament is expected to respond to the inquiry findings with proposed legislation in April.
Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Victor Dominello, the driving
force behind new strata laws in NSW, wasn’t on the committee but is
known to be a keen advocate for cutting red tape and backing the
“Minister Dominello entered a meeting with me, carrying the
parliamentary report as if it was tablets of stone and he was Moses
coming down from the mountain,” leading strata lawyer and recent OCN
chairman Stephen Goddard told Fairfax Media.
“I told him the report wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. It
completely ignores the realities of strata living and the very real
fears of apartment owners and tenants.”
Mr Dominello disagreed, saying there were no perfect solutions, but the parliamentary inquiry was “a good start”.
“This is a phenomenon that governments around the world have had to
grapple with,” he said. “The emergence of peer-to-peer platforms,
allowing short-term letting of residential premises has fundamentally
changed the accommodation market.
“More and more consumers are choosing to engage with new technologies
including Airbnb. This issue has generated a range of competing
interests and our job is to navigate an outcome from those interests.”
The Airbnb spokesman applauded the government’s efforts to update the
holiday letting laws, saying Airbnb rents helped families pay for their
own holidays and “the mortgage, electricity bills and other daily
He said that “home sharing laws in NSW were written long before the
internet even existed and the government did the right thing leading
the charge to update and renew them”.
“Airbnb supports the right for people to share their home, without the
need for wading through red tape or over-the-top permissions.”
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