News and Views

Our short-stay rental hosts are hardly battlers

Earlier this year the Australian spokesperson for Airbnb was quoted in The Mercury (21/02) as saying “short-term rentals provide a way for everyday people to stay afloat and combat rising cost of living and growing mortgage repayments”. Similarly, in a 2019 submission to the Legislative Assembly Select Committee on Housing Affordability, Airbnb noted that “the vast majority of Airbnb hosts are local Tasmanians looking to supplement their income by sharing their own home and primary place of residence. For many of these hosts, sharing their space and making extra income is an economic lifeline”.

The lack of evidence about short stay hosts in Tasmania led the Tenants’ Union of Tasmania to investigate the claims made. We did this by asking Hobart City Council late last year if they could provide us with a list of the 506 short stay permit holders in their municipality. We then utilised the Land Information System Tasmania (the LIST) to research who owned the property, whether they owned other property, and the property or properties value. Our research was released last week in a report entitled Meet the Hosts – An analysis of short stay accommodation permit data in the Hobart City Council municipality.

The report found that the majority of short stay hosts in Hobart are Tasmanians. It is not the case, as some believe, that our homes are being bought by mainlanders or foreign investors. 7 out of 10 entire property short stays in Hobart are owned by Tasmanians, and there was only one host who lived outside Australia. The report also found that almost 9 out of 10 permit holders are natural persons, not companies.

However, our research also found that permit holders in Hobart own an average of 3.2 properties in Tasmania alone with an average valuation of $2.6M. It is simply not true that hosts of entire properties in Hobart are precarious battlers sharing their home as a means of keeping afloat. The hosts of entire property short stays in Hobart are on average 50 per cent wealthier than the average Australian – and that is only taking into account their Tasmanian property wealth. It is very likely that most of these hosts would have other assets that we were unable to take into account, which may include cash, shares, interstate property and superannuation.

Our research provides a more complete picture of entire property short stay accommodation hosts in Hobart. The research is important because it highlights an inconvenient truth about the so-called sharing economy in Hobart, namely that short stay accommodation is predominantly a means by which the already well-off generate even greater personal wealth. That wealth comes at the expense of Tasmania’s genuine battlers: the homeless, the poor, the disabled, survivors of family violence, students, and single parents who are left to haggle over a diminishing supply of long-term rental properties.

Benedict Bartl is the principal solicitor of the Tenants’ Union of Tasmania.

This opinion article was published in The Mercury on 5 July 2023.