Gold Coast Airbnb listings: Owners making a motza with former rentals, council says rules must be followed

Oct 2022Karen Millers

The peak body for unit owners has called on the state government to introduce legislation allowing bodies corporate to ban Airbnbs from their complexes.

Strata Community Association (Qld) General Manager Laura Bos said short-term letting was a huge issue in body corporate schemes, with residents largely powerless to act without resorting to expensive court processes.

“SCA (Qld) has been advocating to the State Government to pass legislation for a long time now which would allow bodies corporate to pass a by-law allowing them to ban short-term letting – this is currently impossible for 99% of Queensland’s strata communities,” Ms Bos said.

“Body corporate by-laws and breaches of same can ultimately be enforced through the courts, but the beauty of this approach to enforcement is it empowers onsite residents and local body corporate managers to act.

“This issue needs to be examined seriously. By giving bodies corporate more control over their destiny in their scheme, we can help alleviate rental and housing shortages whilst also enhancing the desirability of strata properties more broadly.

“Making strata living more attractive to a wider variety of people will help all levels of Government tackling the housing crisis.”

Ms Bos said the organisation welcomed the comments of council planning chair Cameron Caldwell that the local authority was taking a tough stand on Airbnbs operated without proper permission, but said council was limited in what it could do.

“We strongly support the stand taken by Councillor Caldwell and Gold Coast City Council. Enforcing lawful use of a property is critical to supporting good city planning,” Ms Bos said.

“Of course, in a designated tourist precinct, people can expect and should accept short-term letting. Where it becomes a problem is in areas specifically for families and other long term residents.

“Council does not have limitless resources, particularly when it comes to problems in large unit complexes where there can be hundreds of residents.”

The comments from Ms Bos come after the Bulletin reported a rise in the number of properties listed for short term letting on the Gold Coast, including some suburban houses which had previously used as long-term rentals.

Planning chief’s tough stance on Airbnbs

PLANNING Chair Cameron Caldwell says council will take a “strong hand” in enforcing planning rules around short-term accommodation in the wake of a Bulletin report about suburban homes being used as Airbnbs.

The issue has also caused controversy in Brisbane, with the council there asking people to dob in neighbours amid a push from Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner to get properties returned to the long-term rental market.

Cr Caldwell said the Gold Coast was reliant on short-term accommodation as a tourist hot-spot, but council was determined to ensure it was in the right location and proper approvals were in place.

“There’s no doubt that an increase in short term accommodation has a consequential reduction in long term residential stock,” Cr Caldwell said

“Gold Coast City Council has always taken a strong hand in enforcing appropriate planning approvals being in place, primarily to ensure adherence to the City Plan.

“Adherence to the City Plan is what ensures residential amenity is protected, and the pattern of settlement throughout the city is maintained in the way that we want it to be.

“It’s important to recognise that in a tourist-dependent city we rely heavily on short-term accommodation.

“But we expect it to be in the appropriate locations and with the right approvals so as to ensure that amenity and affordability in our suburbs is maintained.”

Residents concerned that a premises is being used for short-term accommodation without proper approvals can report the issue at the ‘Report a problem’ page on council’s website or by calling 07 5667 5978.

How landlords are cleaning up in Airbnb boom

Long-term rental properties are being repurposed as AirBnbs – reaping owners four times as much in some cases – as they cash in on a resurgence of tourism on the Gold Coast.

Suburban homes previously occupied by long-term tenants are now earning owners up to four times more on the holiday letting market, a Bulletin investigation shows.

The squeeze it is putting on tenants’ ability to find long-term rentals has prompted QShelter executive director Fiona Caniglia to call for “limitations” on short-term letting.

Among properties examined by the Bulletin are:

* A Coomera house rented for years at $650 a week, and now listed for up to $425 per night – or $2975 a week – on Airbnb after being sold to new owners in October last year.

* A Palm Beach house rented since 2009, listed at $550 per week just two years ago, now on Airbnb for up to $572 per night.

* An Oxenford house advertised for rent in October 2020 for $450 per week, now on Airbnb for $250 per night.

The popularity of short-term rentals has surged with international tourism returning. The number of Gold Coast properties listed on short-term rental sites had risen to 7035 in the second quarter of this year from a low of 6120 nine months earlier, analytics firm AirDNA figures shows.

It’s well below their pre-pandemic peak, suggesting room for further strong growth in listings.

AirDNA map showing the location of short-term holiday lettings on the Gold Coast.

Occupancy rates have risen sharply, sitting at 90 per cent in August this year compared to 43 per cent last October.

The agency estimates the average daily rate achieved by short-term lettings on the Gold Coast is $289, which equates to just over $2000 a week.

According to SQM Research, the average median weekly rent on the Gold Coast is $988 for houses and $650 for units. The vacancy rate is 0.6 per cent.

Research by the Property Investment Professionals of Australia (PIPA) also suggests investors are selling in big numbers. The group estimates 162,000 dwellings lost to the long-term rental market in Queensland in two years. It is not known how many have been subsequently made available on short-term rental sites.

QShelter executive director Fiona Caniglia said there was lack of good data around the impact of short-term letting on the rental market, but was concerned it could become a major problem in the lead-up to the Olympics in 2032.

“As we move towards mega events like World Cups and the Olympics there’s a huge opportunity for people with dwellings they are not living in to benefit from short-term rental.

“But in an environment where we don’t have enough supply to meet demand that will impact and most probably displace people who need to live here to work or live here because that’s where their social connections are.

“We definitely think it needs regulation and limitations. We maybe wouldn’t need to say that if we had a healthy housing market but we don’t.”

In June, Brisbane City Council introduced a new rating category which meant owners of properties listed for short-term rental for more than 60 days a year would have to pay 50 per cent higher rates.

“With the rental vacancy rate now at record lows, it’s incredibly hard for tenants to find affordable places to live with six or twelve-month leases,” Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said.

“The short-term rental trend, facilitated by well-known booking apps, removes homes from the long-term rental market. To be clear, this contributes to supply shortages and increasing housing costs.”

The NSW government has also taken steps to limit the amount of housing listed by sites such as Airbnb, earlier this year introducing a 180-day cap across the state.

AirDNA data suggests the measure has already had some effect, with listings in Sydney dropping 22 per cent in the last year despite the reopening of borders.

Byron Shire Council is intending to go further, recently revealing plans for a 90-day cap in most areas which they hope would see hundreds of homes returned to the rental market.

Mayor Michael Lyon: “This is about returning properties in key residential areas to the long-term letting pool by setting caps on how many days properties will be able to be rented out for holiday accommodation.

“The more rental accommodation available for holiday letting, the less stock is there for people looking for long-term, secure housing.

“It is also important we can give our communities some confidence the house or unit next door, in their quiet residential area, will not have a continual turnover of holiday makers moving through them year round.”

Owners of properties used for short-term letting on the Gold Coast already face significantly higher costs in terms of different rates bills.

Rules vary depending on zoning, but a Material Change of Use application must be submitted in most cases, while significantly higher rates also apply.

Further restrictions, such as those introduced in NSW, are likely to be discussed at the state government’s housing summit due to take place later this month.

Originally Published: Keith Woods | Herald Sun | 7 October 2022

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