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Airbnb rebuts latest ‘deeply flawed’ disruption report

12 November 2018 Sasha Karen
Airbnb mobile application

Airbnb Australia has been quick to rebut a new report on how the short-term rental industry is unhinging the Australian housing market, the latest in a long list of them, calling it “deeply” flawed.

As detailed in the Technological Disruption in Private Housing Markets: The Case of Airbnb by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), inner-city areas that rely on tourism are seeing a decline in rental properties.

In Sydney, these include the suburbs of Darlinghurst and Manly, with Airbnb-listed properties making up between 11.2 per cent and 14.8 per cent of the suburbs’ rental stock.

This is also being felt in Melbourne, including central Melbourne, Docklands, Southbank, Fitzroy and St Kilda, which account from between 8.6 per cent and 15.3 per cent of the suburbs’ rental stock.

In these suburbs, the trends of decreasing bond lodgement rates and increasing property vacancy indicate to AHURI that there is a likelihood of short-term letting properties removing long-term rental properties away from the market.

“The findings suggest that STL is contributing to the challenges already confronted by long-term renters in these local markets,” the report noted.

“While the city-wide affordability impact may be limited, those seeking long-term housing will face a market that is at best more complex and uncertain, and may also be moderately less affordable in some local areas.”

Besides the direct influence, the report stated that there is also an indirect influence on the property market being noticed, shaping “how we think about and deal with property” — the nature of fluid property and financial attitudes.

With properties bouncing between short-term lets and long-term rentals, the report noted that property owners using their houses for short-term letting can allow for these investors to find an alternative income opportunity, with some investors specifically changing their properties to accommodate short-term letting.

However, the report showed that there were others likely to return back to renting out the property in the long term due to the instability of letting out short-term as a long-term plan. But as the report noted, “this reinforces the conclusion that [short-term letting] is contributing to greater fluidity of property use, where the competing benefits of different monetisation strategies are regularly weighed up”.

This then, in turn, is changing how housing is culturally thought about, with the holidaying aspect of short-term let properties seriously being considered.

“While many hosts may not be earning significant incomes, hosting is nonetheless reshaping their perceptions of the value of their housing,” the report stated.

However, Airbnb has come out and denied the findings in the report, claiming that it was “deeply flawed” [and] “relies on unreliable data and an unrepresentative survey to make inaccurate claims”.

“As the researchers themselves identified but chose to ignore, Airbnb is simply not a primary factor in the housing market,” a spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement provided to REB sister publication Smart Property Investment.

“The Airbnb community represents less than 1 per cent of the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets.

“Holding less than 1 per cent of the market responsible just isn’t credible, and more seriously distracts from the big causes, like the planning system, population growth and taxation.”

The statement continued, claiming that it was wrong and unfair “to malign the working and middle-class families who rely on home-sharing”.

“At a time when the cost of living is high, the report even casts aspersions on families wanting to [earn] extra income.

“The typical Airbnb host in Australia earns a modest $107 a week or $5,600 a year, which we know helps them make ends meet and pay the bills.”

Peter Koulizos, chairman of the Property Investment Professionals of Australia, did not disagree with the report’s initial findings, but he did disagree with the report on the basis that it does not pose any issue Australia-wide.

“In the city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and the beachside suburbs of Sydney, there obviously is an issue, but in 95 per cent of Australian suburbs and country towns and regional areas, there isn’t an issue,” Mr Koulizos told Smart Property Investment.

“There is no need for any sort of regulation.

“Where there is high demand for short-term lets, there may need to be some sort of restriction, but it’s all supply and demand. If lots of people want to holiday in Manly and then they’re going to look for Airbnb in Manly, they’re not going to look for Airbnb in Rooty Hills, are they?”

Airbnb rebuts latest ‘deeply flawed’ disruption report
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