Brent Thomas

Airbnb to NSW Gov: You’re dreamin’

The NSW Government’s attack on house sharing shows a fundamental ignorance of what they bring to the state as a whole. Airbnb are looking for regulation and understanding.

 

 

Two decades ago, Australia was invited to feel the serenity. Darryl Kerrigan, Bonnie Doon and The Castle not only entered Australian folklore, but reflected our enduring belief that a person’s home is their castle.

With Airbnb, people can now use their castle or home to make a little extra money to pay the mortgage or bills. For many after the GFC, Airbnb has become their economic lifeline. The average host in NSW makes $4,470 a year. Hardly a fortune by any measure, but this equals just shy of two months of the average mortgage repayment in Sydney.

Airbnb has also become a key driver of the Australian economy. Deloitte Access Economics found Airbnb contributed more than $1.6 billion to Australia’s GDP and supported more than 14,000 local jobs in 2015-16. Airbnb guests spent more than $2 billion nationally, including more than half a billion dollars on food. Airbnb is a boon for local cafes, restaurants and shops outside the mainstream tourist districts that have traditionally missed out. With Airbnb, these small businesses – institutions of the local community – now can share the benefits of the tourism boom.

 

While some of the options the NSW Government has flagged are fair and sensible, others are retrograde. Heavy-handed options, like bans, caps or licences, would hurt the everyday people who rely on Airbnb, cost local jobs in small businesses and make it more expensive for families to travel.

 

Sadly, at present, the rules for home sharing in NSW aren’t fit-for-purpose. Right now, we have a confusing and complex patchwork of rules that were written well before the Internet even existed. While home sharing itself is as old as time (think Jesus being born in the manger), home sharing through a digital platform is new. Just as we went from the horse and buggy to the car, we need new rules for new technology.

The NSW Government recently released its long-awaited Options Paper for regulating home sharing. The move towards a smart, modern regulatory framework is a welcome one. It brings NSW a step closer to having common sense rules for home sharing, just like in South Australia and Tasmania.

While some of the options the NSW Government has flagged are fair and sensible, others are retrograde. Heavy-handed options, like bans, caps or licences, would hurt the everyday people who rely on Airbnb, cost local jobs in small businesses and make it more expensive for families to travel. Furthermore, these regressive options would only serve to entrench the dominance of the big hotel lobby, which is actively lobbying against the best interests of travellers and everyday Australian hosts.

Airbnb wants regulation. We want common sense rules for home sharing in NSW.

We have already worked with countless governments and communities around the world on crafting the right rules. But the rules need to get the balance right and avoid knee-jerk populism. We need rules which protect the right of persons to share their home if they wish, while preserving the safety of our local community.

Already, our hosts are scared by unfair calls to rob them of their right to share their own homes, whether it is a house or an apartment. They are upset that a government would even consider violating the notion that a person’s home is their castle. They are determined to tell the Government they’re dreaming. We look forward to making sure our hosts’ voices are heard and to working with the NSW Government to get the balance right.

 

Brent Thomas is an Airbnb host and Head of Public Policy ANZ at Airbnb.

 

Brent Thomas

Brent Thomas is responsible for public policy in Airbnb’s Australia and New Zealand team. He has held senior policy and corporate affairs roles across the banking and technology sector, including Vice President, Public Policy and Corporate Affairs at Mastercard, Head of Corporate Affairs at eBay and Chief of Staff to the Managing Director at PayPal Australia.

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