April 12 2021

Late Friday 9 April 2021 the NSW Government quietly “announced” its stripped-down and “final” short-term letting policy. In the middle of a housing crisis, the Government has legalised “Airbnb” facilitating the loss of thousands of apartments and houses across NSW. In a bizarre twist, it used an amendment to the Affordable Rental Housing Policy 2009 to achieve its goal! This would be comic if it was not such a tragic exercise of political cowardice.

The impetus for the policy has been the exponential and illegal penetration of Airbnb into the urban housing market. It is no surprise then that the major beneficiaries are the Big Platforms who lobbied to dismantle the NSW planning system. Ironically, those global Platforms, like so many investors, are not domiciled in the Local Government Area (LGA), the State or even Australia.

The policy was smuggled out with no warning to local government, housing groups or the hotel industry, which is on life support. It certainly takes some chutzpah to bend over for booking platforms like Airbnb and Expedia in the middle of a pandemic with house prices soaring, homeless and housing shortages increasing, and tenants facing debt and eviction. Meanwhile, licensed tourist accommodation is going to the wall.

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