Airbnb denies worsening housing affordability by soaking up residential properties for tourist accommodation, and its co-founder has said governments need to accept that his company’s business model is here to stay.
The home sharing website’s co-founder Joe Gebbia is visiting Australia, in part to try and smooth regulatory hurdles that have threatened to stifle the company’s growth in Australia.
Despite having more than 40,000 listings in News South Wales, including about 25,000 in Sydney, the state has yet to pass specific laws governing Airbnb rentals, leaving it up to local government regulations that differ from area to area.
Other states have recently introduced regulations governing Airbnb, with the company citing South Australia and Tasmania as jurisdictions with what it described as “fair” policies.
“The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in,” was Mr Gebbia’s blunt message to policymakers.
Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia (gesticulating) speaking to Australian journalists at a lunchtime briefing at an Airbnb listed property in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill. (Supplied: Airbnb)
“So how do you work together to come up with fair and balanced regulations?
“We believe in regulations, as long as they’re fair and balanced.”
A key area of contention is around the rights of neighbours, particularly in apartment blocks, when Airbnb guests are noisy or create mess in common areas.
Many residents are also concerned about the safety implications of having large numbers of guests passing through their neighbours’ homes.
‘More than two-thirds sharing the home they live in’
Another area of worry for housing policymakers is whether Airbnb listings are detracting from the available rental stock and pushing up rents.
But Mr Gebbia said most Airbnb owners live in the properties they rent out.
“There is a common misconception globally that the platform’s about property groups and big property groups renting out entire apartments full-time,” he responded to a question from the ABC.
“The majority of our hosts are everyday people … who rent out the residence [when they are away] or an extra bedroom, usually to make ends meet.”
Airbnb’s Australia and New Zealand country manager Sam McDonagh said that applied locally.
“In Australia, more than two-thirds of the listings that we have on the platform are sharing the home that they live in,” he added.
Airbnb cited a report by the Tenants’ Union of NSW, which found that the home shares did not appear to be pushing up rents, even in areas where they were prevalent.
However, the Tenants’ Union did warn there was a risk that some landlords might consider evicting renters during peak periods, such as summer holidays, unless tenancy laws were strengthened to limit evictions without a good reason.