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Airbnb and Stayz exonerated from rising rents blame in Queensland inquiry

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The results of a recent inquiry into the effects of short-term rental accommodation (STRA) on long-term rental markets in Queensland have been released, and they may come as a surprise to some. Conducted independently by the University of Queensland, the report aimed to discover the extent to which STRA, particularly through platforms like Airbnb and Stayz, impacts housing affordability and availability in the state.

As of the start of 2023, there were approximately 19,773 active short-term rentals across Queensland, with the majority located in the state’s south-east. These rentals are most prevalent in tourist hotspots such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Noosa, Douglas, Whitsunday, Cairns, Moreton Bay, and Townsville.

Despite long-standing claims that short-term rentals contribute to tightening long-term vacancy rates and increasing rents across the country, the Queensland review determined that short-term rentals have a “limited impact on rental affordability.” Instead, the report identified dwelling stocks as the significant contributor to the scarcity of long-term rentals and subsequent lease increases.

The proposed short-term rental register smacks of using any excuse for the government to collect data on property investors for the purposes of ultimately penalising them through greater regulation and higher rates

This finding may cause some jurisdictions to reconsider their stance on capping or curtailing the prevalence of short-term accommodation. The Queensland government, however, is unlikely to impose large-scale restrictions, as the review concluded that such measures would “fail to account for the diverse nature of short-term rental dynamics across Queensland.”

The state government is considering the implementation of a short-term rental registry, which Deputy Premier Steven Miles believes could “serve as a tool to support local governments in monitoring short-term rental activity and could provide invaluable insights into its impact on our housing market over time, to inform evidence-based regulation.”

Mr. Miles described the report as productive, providing clarity on “whether short-term rentals like Airbnb and Stayz are affecting the tight rental market.” He emphasized that while short-term rentals can affect rental affordability to some extent, their impact is limited, and the primary issue remains housing availability and supply.

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Antonia Mercorella, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, expressed hope that the issue of STRA would “stop distracting government from where their real focus needs to be – addressing supply.” She also pushed back on the idea of establishing a rental accommodation register, suggesting that the government’s motives might extend beyond assessing the long-term impact of STRA.

“The proposed short-term rental register smacks of using any excuse for the government to collect data on property investors for the purposes of ultimately penalising them through greater regulation and higher rates,” she said.

The inquiry’s findings offer a fresh perspective on the relationship between short-term rentals and long-term housing affordability in Queensland. By highlighting the limited impact of STRA on rental prices and emphasizing the importance of housing supply, the report may influence future policy decisions and shift the focus towards addressing the root causes of housing challenges in the state.

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