In keeping with the grand Australian tradition of finding scapegoats and demonising them, rather than fixing the real problems, short-term letting schemes like Airbnb have been blamed, by some, for the rental shortage crisis.
But an independent inquiry conducted in Queensland has found that, NO, the rental shortage has not been caused by some property owners opting for short-term tenancies rather than long-term permanent tenancies.
Launched as a precursor to the Queensland State Government’s proposed planning reforms, the report has been conducted independently by the University of Queensland.
With an eye on discovering to what extent short-term rental accommodation – or STRA – is impacting housing affordability and availability in the state, the report pays particular attention to areas where private properties are leveraged on apps such as Airbnb and Stayz.
At the start of 2023, there were roughly 20,000 active short-term rentals across Queensland, with the majority condensed in the state’s south-east. Short-term rentals are most prevalent in tourist hotspots like the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Noosa, Douglas, Whitsunday, Cairns, Moreton Bay and Townsville.
And while they’ve long been targeted as a reason for tightening long-term vacancy rates across the country, in Queensland the review determined that short-term rentals have a “limited impact on rental affordability”.
Instead, the lack of dwelling stock is deemed to be the most significant contributor to dwindling long-term rentals and ensuing lease increases. In other words, we have a shortage of dwellings because we haven’t been building enough new ones and there are too few owned by property investors – the people who supply over 90% of the homes people rent.
And none of this comes as a surprise to the team at Hotspotting. That figure of 20,000 short- term rental properties in Queensland shows how relatively insignificant Airbnb is, in a state where there are over 500,000 long-term rental tenancies.
This information may give pause to some jurisdictions that have been looking to cap or curtail the prevalence of short-term accommodation.
So, it’s considered unlikely the Queensland state government will look to make large-scale restrictions, as the review found that would “fail to account for the diverse nature of short- term rental dynamics across Queensland”.
The Government is, however, considering moving forward with a short-term rental registry, which Deputy Premier Steven Miles said 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”.
That’s political speak for providing local councils with the information they can use to hit owners of STRA properties with higher rates and taxes, which some councils are already doing.
In other words, they’re not interested in solving the rental shortage – they’re just interested in finding ways to extract more revenue from the housing market, through new or higher taxes, rates and charges – while claiming to be doing it to fix the shortage.
We are not going to find remedies to the rental shortage crisis until politicians start to understand how the problem was created in the first place – and then stop punishing and discouraging the people who supply the product that’s in short supply – ordinary, everyday mum-and-dad property investors.