Property owners in Brisbane who put their homes on the short-term rental market have been told to return them to the long-term rental market or pay 50 per cent higher rates.
The move is a response to extremely low vacancy rates – something Canberra is also experiencing.
The vacancy rate in the Queensland capital was around 0.6 per cent in May. In the ACT, it was 0.5 per cent earlier this year.
Here, local politicians have also set Airbnbs in their sights.
Last month, Greens MLA Johnathan Davis moved a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly calling on the ACT Government to consider investigating the impact of short-term accommodation on the Territory’s rental crisis.
The crossbencher acknowledged the Territory is now a long way behind Brisbane, whose idea he described as “progressive”.
“This is in stark contrast to the ACT Government which does not even know how many Airbnb properties there are and does not impose any rules or additional taxation measures on owners who choose to use platforms like Airbnb,” he said.
“We don’t have a read on the scale of the problem, which makes it very hard to design policy, so the first step is collecting that data.”
Although some in Queensland have argued the move is not harsh enough – and one Greens councillor in Brisbane called for the city council to increase rates by 500 per cent instead – Mr Davis said it was not only about the figure but about the message the policy sent to the market.
“A step like this sends a clear indication to property investors that their government does not want to incentivise this type of property investment,” he said.
The crossbencher’s recent motion passed with tri-partisan support. It was then referred to the Assembly’s Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services, which will ultimately decide if an inquiry should be conducted.
Mr Davis said convention would dictate the committee would indeed investigate what the Assembly had called on it to do.
He hoped the inquiry could examine the current regulatory and planning settings for managing platform-based accommodation in other states and locally, and whether adjusting these could help increase the number of long-term rental properties available in the ACT.
Mr Davis argued that clamping down on Airbnbs was good for renters and the hotel industry, which had also suffered throughout the pandemic.
In Brisbane, there are around 3600 properties listed on the short-term market.
According to short-term data accommodation data analysis company AirDNA, there are around 920 active rentals in Canberra listed on the short-term rental market. Of these, 80 per cent (around 700) of houses – which is the number advocates are concerned with.
Better Renting has been crunching the numbers for some time.
Founder Joel Dignam said returning Airbnbs to the long-term rental market would make a material difference.
On average, there are around 800 properties listed at any one time to rent in Canberra.
“If you imagine those properties get added to the pool and spread out across the year – let’s say 60 at a time – that would almost increase the rental pool by 10 per cent,” he explained.
“That would be a jump and would mean less competition, more choice and eventually, more affordability.”
The latest Anglicare Australia snapshot showed there were almost no properties deemed as “affordable” for people on income support to rent in the ACT.
Affordable rent is considered to be no more than 30 per cent of a person’s income.
Canberra has repeatedly been listed as the most expensive city in the country to rent.
The ACT Government is also considering a range of reforms that would, among other things, prevent landlords from ending leases without cause, seek to regulate and prohibit rent bidding, and set minimum standards for rental properties.
But some in the property industry have criticised the timing of such reforms, arguing they may lead to investors leaving the market and selling up.