Plea to Canberra to release holiday rentals for bushfire evacuees

Wendy Johnson 28 January 2020 20
Fire-destroyed homes

More than 2,000 homes and many businesses have been destroyed so far this fire season. Canberrans are being urged to rent unused holiday homes to support evacuees. Photo: Harcourts Batemans Bay.

Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has issued a plea to Canberrans to release vacant holiday homes to bushfire evacuees to get people out of caravan parks, hotel rooms and, in some cases, even sheds.

Mr Constance made the case on social media: “We’ve got to get people placed [in accommodation] and one solution to that is freeing up many coastal homes which won’t necessarily have people in them. We’re calling on Canberrans who have homes to make them available.”

One South Coast resident all too familiar with this phase of recovery is Dene Lewthwaite, who lived through the 2003 Canberra bushfires before moving to the Bateman’s Bay area. In 2003, Dene saw first-hand how important it was for people to quickly source long-term accommodation while getting their lives back on track.

“There was a shortage in Canberra and we saw supply and demand drive rental prices up, creating a false market of sorts,” says Dene.

“Increased costs were an added burden for Canberrans suffering from the devastating effects of the fires. The situation at the South Coast could present the same challenges, perhaps even greater challenges given that long-term, affordable rental accommodation was already in short supply before the first fire began to burn.”

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed so far this fire season and an undetermined number will require major repairs.

Dene, also the director at Harcourts Batemans Bay, says Canberrans who own holiday homes or property at the coast that they don’t use frequently are an essential part of the long-term rebuilding solution.

Dene Lewthwaite and Adam Sadil

Dene Lewthwaite and Adam Sadil from Harcourts Batemans Bay are reducing property management fees for Canberrans releasing holiday homes from the Bay to Tuross Heads to help rebuild the South Coast. Photo: Harcourts Batemans Bay.

“A great way to support the South Coast is to increase the number of properties available for 12 to 18 months at current rental rates,” says Dene, who has been in the real estate business for 19 years. “Rebuilding requires time for insurance claims, planning, development approvals and even, potentially, a shortage of designers and builders.”

Canberra’s Alanna Davis says her family has already made their property at Maloney’s Beach available for rent through Harcourts. The family has owned the property for almost 20 years and are very much part of the community.

The view from Maloneys Beach to Batemans Bay

The view from Maloneys Beach to Batemans Bay 31 December. Photo: Alanna Davis.

“We’re renting our house out fully furnished,” says Alanna. “Giving up a few weekends and holidays here and there is nothing if it means helping a family get settled into a routine while they rebuild. It’s not about the money for us. It’s about helping.”

According to Dene, “releasing stock owned by non-residential ratepayers is about helping fellow Aussies”.

“It’s a small price to pay for victims facing so much,” he says, “and it will help the South Coast reopen for business and thrive once more.”

Members of the Davis family

Happier days. Members of the Davis family playing on Maloneys Beach. Photo: Alanna Davis.

Harcourts Batemans Bay isn’t just appealing to Canberrans to help, they’re throwing their support behind the push by reducing property management fees for properties from the Bay down to Tuross Heads by 20 per cent for those who sign up to help.

“It’s critical to use a professional, registered and fully insured company to protect rental property,” says Property Manager Sandra Nascimento. “That means a company with the experience and qualifications to properly vet applications, find the right match between tenants and accommodation, take bonds and complete all the necessary paperwork.”

Harcourts Batemans Bay is also donating 20 per cent of all letting fees and commissions made on new properties to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Wires Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation for the next 12 months.


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20 Responses to Plea to Canberra to release holiday rentals for bushfire evacuees
Kristy Morton Kristy Morton 11:25 am 20 Jan 20

Bit of a catch 22 as people cant afford to just give there rental properties out for free as they too then can lose everything as they have bills ext to pay .we all pay rates ext. Buisness need to get moneycoming in or they too fall down. I feel people need to be responsible and have home and contents insurance when you own a property because fires happen and then everyone wants a hand out . There been so many people donate time money and food . People are doing the best they can to help

    Alanna Davis Alanna Davis 8:11 pm 20 Jan 20

    Kristy Morton The article is asking people to rent out their holiday homes, for fair market rent, not for free.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 10:39 pm 19 Jan 20

If only I had one, I would.

Shona Barber Shona Barber 8:47 pm 18 Jan 20

The thing that upsets me also is the fact that if you've lost your home and decide to get a caravan to live on their block, until they can get their affairs in order, they won't be allowed to.

Apparently the "rules" are that the caravan is not a dwelling that has been approved to be a permanent dwelling. They can only stay in it 2 consecutive days at a time, for 60 days of the year.

I think it is disgusting that these people who have lost everything, now, get a further kick in the guts :(

Lynne Williams Lynne Williams 8:30 pm 18 Jan 20

The wonderful Christine Ewin has already placed quite a few people ♥️♥️♥️

    Christine Ewin Christine Ewin 10:28 pm 18 Jan 20

    Lynne Williams thank you.

    The rentals do include in most cases linen, electricity, gas and all furniture. $400 a week with all that included is great value.

Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 7:28 pm 18 Jan 20

If I had one I would!

Brad Mann Brad Mann 7:10 pm 18 Jan 20

One of the big problems down in the bay As well are people not being able to work. Due to businesses cutting peoples hours right back as well

Geoff Davis Geoff Davis 5:24 pm 18 Jan 20

Insurers responsible for claims employ people with advanced post graduate qualifications in obfuscation, file shredding, memory loss and use of the platitude check list.

Their business model is informed by death by the thousand cuts paradigm.

If we needed a Royal Commission it would be into the insurance companies, you could do it in short time! Just copy the Banking results!!

Toby Williams Toby Williams 5:09 pm 18 Jan 20

While there may be a few family owned south coast holiday homes that don’t get rented.

Most homes down there would be investment properties. As such they too are really small accommodation businesses.

If they donate their homes, they too loose the one time of year they can earn the money to help pay the mortgage.

Surely some of the donated money could be used as subsidies to help pay the rents, and maybe negotiated longer leases so the loss in higher income now is offset by a lease that goes into the low season.

Steve N Carol Trute Steve N Carol Trute 3:47 pm 18 Jan 20

There has been so much money raised for the fire victims - have they been given any of it? If not why not?

    Shane Phoenix Shane Phoenix 9:45 pm 18 Jan 20

    Apparently a large part of red Cross donations was taken as fees and other charges.

    Steve N Carol Trute Steve N Carol Trute 10:03 pm 18 Jan 20

    Shane Guest that’s what we hear happens a lot which is wrong 😡

    Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 7:21 pm 19 Jan 20

    This is why I haven't given anything to these "charities", I know most of the money will go into investments for 12 months, then given as wages and salaries of the employees. It's not right. I'd rather hand cash directly to the victim and cut out the middle man.

    Steve N Carol Trute Steve N Carol Trute 7:40 pm 19 Jan 20

    Marko Lehikoinen agreed and into the CEOs pockets 😡

Michelle Preston Michelle Preston 9:50 am 18 Jan 20

So hard as we had an affordable rental crisis before the fires. Again the homeless who were needing help pre fire now are further down the list. Where’s the millions in donations going. Tiny houses could alleviate a lot of strain. We need to think outside the square.

Annie Martin Annie Martin 11:18 pm 17 Jan 20

After losing their home & everything in it, & not having house or content insurance, my son and his Dad are being charged $400 a week for a 2 bedroom townhouse in the Bay. Seems awfully steep to me...

    Annie Martin Annie Martin 12:00 am 18 Jan 20

    Karen Butler thanks Kaz. It's a bit tough for them at the moment. Onward and upward s from here xo

    Annie Martin Annie Martin 9:14 pm 18 Jan 20

    Kylie Maso that's very kind of you. They have signed a lease for 12 months & are moving in Monday. Thank you for caring darl.

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