A new report has found Airbnb listings make up 15.3 per cent of rental housing stock in the CBD. Picture: Mark Stewart
AIRBNB is having a “concerning” impact on affordability for many Melbourne tenants, according to new research revealing its listings account for up to one in seven rental properties in popular suburbs.
“Commercial” Airbnb listings — whole homes available for more than 90 days per year — are dangerously concentrated in Melbourne’s desirable inner-city and beachside hubs, an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report has found.
They notably accounted for 15.3 per cent of the rental housing stock in the Melbourne CBD, 12.2 per cent in Docklands, 11.7 per cent in Fitzroy, 10.4 per cent in Southbank and 8.6 per cent in St Kilda.
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Melbourne’s commercial Airbnb listings at March 2018, as a proportion of rental dwellings (based on the 2016 census). Source: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s Technological disruption in private housing markets: the case of Airbnb
The report said while short-stay platforms were likely “not significantly worsening rental affordability across our major cities as a whole”, they were reducing the availability and security of long-term rentals in “high-demand inner-city areas with significant tourism appeal” and good access to transport, jobs and amenities.
It called for increased regulation of Airbnbs in Victoria, with report co-author Laura Crommelin of the University of New South Wales suggesting a cap on the number of nights commercial hosts can have guests, like Sydney’s new 180-night per year limit.
Hosts should also have to register their properties with the government to allow the possibility of “limiting the number of (commercial) Airbnbs if they deem it necessary”, she said.
Airbnb’s Australia and New Zealand head of policy Brent Thomas said many people relied on the platform to “ease the cost of living and pay for housing”, but it still represented less than 1 per cent of the Melbourne housing market.
This statistic was the finding of a recent SGS Economics and Planning report — the first in Australia to use “official Airbnb data”.
Mr Thomas agreed Victoria needed “fair, progressive and statewide rules for home sharing”.
Airbnb’s Australia and New Zealand head of policy Brent Thomas. Picture: James Horan
AHURI used data from AirDNA — which is independent of Airbnb but claims the platform as one of its “hundreds of sources” — to determine the site’s listings had surged from just below 5000 in August 2015 to about 18,000 in February 2018.
Of those, 56 per cent were leased for small parts of the year while the host was away. The remaining 44 per cent were “commercial lets” more likely to “have a net impact on availability of rental stock”.
The report said while the volume of commercial Airbnbs was small compared to greater Melbourne’s more than 470,000 rentals reported in the latest census, their “geographic concentration” was the problem.
Dr Crommelin said “even a small reduction” in available rentals was “concerning”, with Melbourne rents already unaffordable for low-income tenants.
Those in high-demand suburbs also risked “having their lease terminated if the owner decides it is more profitable or convenient to list … on Airbnb”.
Technological disruption in private housing markets: the case of Airbnb also quizzed more than 500 current and potential Airbnb hosts in interviews and an online survey, finding hosts were primarily motivated to engage in short-term leasing by financial gain.
They did so “more for discretionary spending than to cover pressing housing expenses”, the report said.
MELBOURNE’S TOP AIRBNB SUBURBS
Where commercial* Airbnb listings account for the highest proportion of the rental housing stock
Melbourne CBD: 15.3% proportion, 3072 listings
Docklands: 12.2%, 686
Fitzroy: 11.7%, 313
Southbank: 10.4%, 897
St Kilda: 8.6%, 1015
Source: ‘Technological disruption in private housing markets: the case of Airbnb’, undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute by researchers from UNSW Sydney and Swinburne University. Figures at January 2018
*Whole dwellings that are available for more than 90 days each year