Tasmania short term rental inquiry gets underway

Australia: A parliamentary inquiry is underway in to the growth and consequences of the vacation rental market in Tasmania.

The enquiry heard that growth in the state’s short-stay accommodation market will continue and needs to be managed better in order to prevent rental and housing pressures in certain areas of Tasmania.

On the first day of hearings, the Legislative Council select committee on short-term accommodation was told there was evidence property conversions from long-term rentals had restricted supply in Hobart and regional areas such as St Helens and King Island.

Julia Verdouw, from the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania, said there had been a steady growth in listings in most parts of Tasmania over two years: “Entire properties have grown by 205 per cent statewide. Commercial-type listings are continuing to grow as a proportion of all listings and less of the shared-style accommodation.”

Verdouw said this correlated with a net housing shortage of 650 homes in the greater Hobart area over the same period. “Our concern is if we haven’t seen peak Airbnb, we’re going to continue to see conversions from the private rental market to short-stay accommodation and that is going to impact on vulnerable Tasmanians who are already experiencing housing pressures,” she said.

She added that short-stay accommodation growth had been better regulated and contained internationally through permits, a cap on the maximum visitor nights for a property, and a moratorium on new registrations.

Institute director Richard Eccleston said short-stay accommodation in regional areas had helped the tourism economy and serviced underutilised properties but in some places, it had squeezed already small permanent rental markets. In the cities, particularly Hobart, it had driven up the capital value of properties.

He said new professional management companies were beginning to emerge as a result of the short-term accommodation market and a number of hosts were down as listing between 20 to 30 properties.

Tenants’ Union of Tasmania senior solicitor Ben Bartl said there needed to be a prohibition on short-term accommodation in the greater Hobart area and a 60-day stay limit in other areas.

He said investors with multiple properties needed to be restricted to one listing at a time. He added that 40 per cent of rental stock in Glamorgan-Spring Bay, 17 per cent in Break O’Day and 6.1 per cent of rental stock in the Hobart local government area had been converted to short-term accommodation.

He said entire property listings in Hobart had increased from 60 per cent to 78 per cent over the last year.

Eacham Curry from HomeAway said he supported a mandatory code of conduct and register for all short-term accommodation properties. He said operators should sign a declaration of minimum standards for occupational health and safety, particularly fire safety, and for minimum insurance coverage. Curry said discussions with the state government on data sharing were ongoing

Local Government Association of Tasmania chief executive Katrina Stephenson said the government’s planning directive on short-stay accommodation properties limited council powers on listings for a primary residence or secondary property of less than four rooms. She said councils only had discretion if they were larger properties listed such as former boarding houses.

Dr Stephenson said there was a need for hard data on where there were short-stay accommodation densities and where conversions from long-term rentals had occurred.

LGAT policy officer Dion Lester said short-term accommodation listings in regional towns had prevented a workforce from being temporarily settled for seasonal hospitality work and construction work. He said King Island’s tourism growth had resulted in a significant move to towards short-term rental conversion, but developers now struggled to find rentals to house a temporary construction workforce for projects.