Airbnb defends its territory


At the weekend, Simon Johanson reported the Victorian Supreme Court decision to disallow body corporate regulation of short-stay operators.

There is real conflict here. Owner occupiers are incentivised to avoid maintenance costs and be cordial toward their neighbors – do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Meanwhile, the cavalcade of short-termers are there for fun, to ROCK! Then leave.

They can be noisy, inconsiderate and very wearing on facilities like lifts and foyers. Momentary inconvenience to others is an externality. This can be very tiresome when a building becomes Ground Zero every night of the week.

The decision is likely to cause further friction among the rising number of people choosing to live in apartments who say their properties are over-run by ‘partying’ short-stay tenants intent on living it up.

In a decision that clears the way for Airbnb and other short-term leasing sites to freely operate in Melbourne’s apartment buildings, the Victorian Supreme Court found owners corporations could not make rules to ban short stay operators.

Residents complain such tenants leasing through US-based websites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing are noisy and cause damage to common property like lifts and corridors that are not designed to cope with large numbers of visitors.

The Supreme Court case centred around the owners corporation at the Watergate Docklands apartment complex which had appealed an earlier court decision that concluded it could not make rules to restricted short-stay tenants or Airbnb-type rentals.

“In my opinion, the prohibition of businesses generally and specifically businesses related to short-term letting exceeded the scope of what was intended by the Parliament in enacting the Owners Corporation Act 2006,” Justice Peter Riordan said.

Now the laws have been tested and found wanting, the Victorian parliament will likely change them so if an overwhelming majority in a body corporate want to regulate short-stay, they can.

This difficulty is not just in Melbourne; it is a global phenomenon as Bloomberg reports:

Airbnb Inc. is recruiting a set of former mayors to help the home-rental company navigate its ongoing challenges with regulators at the city level.
As Airbnb has expanded across the globe since its founding in 2008, its most ferocious fights have been with city governments, often over taxes and Airbnb’s effect on a region’s housing supply and prices.

As Airbnb builds up its defences, the company faces pressure from a coordinated effort led by mayors in several cities around the world. Bloomberg reported last month that current mayors from Paris, New York, Seoul, and other cities are working together to produce a rule book for dealing with Airbnb, Uber Technologies Inc., and other technology tools shaping their economies. Airbnb sued its hometown, San Francisco, last month in response to the recently passed city legislation requiring Airbnb to police who uses its site or face fines.

Airbnb plans to call on those advisers to act as consultants on specific problems and as ambassadors to city governments. They will “review Airbnb policies, provide feedback on upcoming Airbnb products and initiatives, and provide Airbnb with valuable insights gained from years leading some of the world’s greatest cities,” the company said in a statement.

Well, that’s a gig any number of conservative former Mayors will lather over. Airbnb has already recruited one in Adelaide, according to Bloomberg.

The different and conflicting ideas of what is ‘liveabile’ will remain. Those seduced by the dream of a silent retreat in the heart of activity will quickly learn one cannot simply close the door on a city of five million people.

We need to lift our gaze. These city dwellings inserted into the bustle of commerce and intense cultural activity can never match the serenity of the suburbs – nor should they. Look instead for an edgy city culture where interests collide in interesting ways and twirl human experience further than we can imagine.

This is Marvellous Melbourne, a dynamic and thrusting metropolis. Embrace it.

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