The NSW government is moving closer to finally clarifying the status of home sharing services like Airbnb (from one of which, coincidentally, this story is being written – albeit on the other side of the Earth.)
A parliamentary report into short term rentals recommended support for the sector, which in practical terms is already thriving despite the legal uncertainty. Airbnb for instance already has 40,000 listings in NSW.
From Napster, to Uber to Airbnb, consumers generally take the lead on the introduction of disruptive new services, and governments are forced eventually to follow.
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Reacting to the news, Airbnb’s local managing director, issued a statement applauding the in principle support from the government.
According to Sam McDonagh, Airbnb Australia Country Manager, “Today’s announcement, which supports the parliamentary committee’s report and recommendations, is a strong, positive step towards ensuring fair and progressive rules and regulation for residents and visitors to NSW who make the most of home sharing.”
He acknowledged the industry — of which it is the clear leader worldwide — had tome work to do locally. “The NSW Government is absolutely right in making moves to crack down on bad behaviour. We will happily stand beside them to support regulations which ensure people’s rights to respectfully and responsibly share their homes are protected.”
McDonagh stressed the economic benefits of the industry. “In the last year alone, Airbnb guests contributed more than $750 million to local businesses across NSW, supporting more than 4,450 local jobs. Today’s announcement is a step closer to continuing this economic growth and diversifying tourism across the state.”
“With the vast majority of NSW listings located outside traditional hotel districts, our guests live like locals, spending money at neighbourhood cafes, shops and restaurants not normally visited by tourists. In fact, in 2015-16, around half of the 40,000 Airbnb listings in NSW were outside the greater Sydney region and located in neighbourhoods across regional NSW. This includes listings in popular Airbnb guest destinations such as Byron Bay, Nowra, Newcastle and Wollongong.”
The move is not without some political risk for the government. In Sydney’s red-hot rental market where buyers are already squeezed, Airbnb has been accused of worsening an already shortly stocked sector as owners chase higher rental yields from short-term visitors.
For the digital sector, the news is welcome although widely anticipated. The government has already faced down the notoriously political taxi sector over the fight with Uber.
Next on the agenda are one of the state’s last protected species – the newsagents – who lately have been complaining about the impact of online lottery service resellers, with all the usual familiar complaints about disruption.