Debate Continues During Inquiry Into Tasmanian Housing Crisis

DEBATE CONTINUES DURING INQUIRY INTO TASMANIAN HOUSING CRISIS

The most recent Public Hearing for the Inquiry into Tasmania’s housing crisis saw length discussions on the impact of AirBNB’s presence in the state. Mr Brent Thomas, Australian head of public policy for AirBNB refuted the claim that the rise of popularity of the online accommodation service in Tasmania is to blame for the housing crisis.

Mr Thomas noted that AirBNB listings that are booked for more than 181 nights per year (which could be considered long-term) account for 0.22% of the housing stock in Tasmania. He noted that this number is smaller than the number of vacant dwellings in Tasmania as reported in the 2016 census.

What concerns us is when our hosts are unreasonably scapegoated for a problem that has much bigger drivers and much bigger levers. I hope we will encourage you to hear their evidence as well. We are concerned that the committee gets the information it needs and looks at the biggest levers available to it, not at something that is one-fifth of 1 per cent.
— Brent Thomas, AirBNB | Australian Head of Public Policy

Other concerns about AirBNB’s presence in the state were raised at the enquiry, such as interstate investors increasing competition for small accommodation operators in areas such as Strahan and Queenstown

They come in, they are paying the normal rates, they are paying no land tax, they are paying basic insurance - not covered by proper insurance because they are insuring it as a residential home. It is a big issue around there and having an impact on the motels. Motels are empty for a quarter of the year.
— Hon. Robert Armstrong MLC, Independent Member for Huon

Some Tasmanian AirBNB hosts presented their case for the service having a positive impact on Tasmanian tourism. They said that they provide experiences that tourists can’t find elsewhere, by providing tours and information that only local residents can provide, and one host noted that the set up of their property (with a primary and auxiliary building) provides accommodation which is better suited to the needs of large groups than any conventional hotel could.

Read the full transcript from the Public Hearing here.

Outside of the Public Hearing, AirBNB hosts across all of Australia have encountered problems with the company this month, reporting issues with payments not being processed.