“Deeply flawed”, “inaccurate”, “unrepresentative”: The report slammed by Airbnb

A new report concluding short-term lets are reshaping the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets has been dismissed as “deeply flawed” by Airbnb.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) report, published on Thursday, found short-stay platforms were “probably not” significantly worsening rental affordability across the cities as a whole.

But it did find Airbnb-style rentals were impacting “availability of rental properties in high-demand inner city areas with significant tourism appeal”.

In Sydney’s sough-after beach and inner-city hotspots of Bondi, Bronte, Coogee, Manly and Darlinghurst, between 11.2 and 14.8 percent of potential rental homes were found to be short lets, cutting the number of properties available to long-term renters.

And one in seven rental properties in those high-demand suburbs were judged by the report’s authors to be  ‘commercial’ Airbnb listings –  properties available for rental for more than 90 days each year.

The report concludes: “In these areas, two factors – decreasing bond lodgement rates, and increasing levels of property vacancy – point to the likelihood that short-term letting is removing properties from the long-term rental market, thereby contributing to increasing unaffordability.”

In Melbourne, commercial Airbnb listings make up between 8.6 and 15.3 per cent of rental stock in the city centre, Docklands, Southbank, Fitzroy and St Kilda, says the report, although it argues the impact of Airbnb on rental supply had been mitigated by an increase in apartment building.

Airbnb has disputed the findings, a spokesperson describing them as “deeply flawed”, “inaccurate”, and “wholly unrepresentative” given the small sample size of 491 respondents.

“The Airbnb community represents less than one per cent of the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets,” the spokesperson said.

“Holding less than one percent of the market responsible just isn’t credible, and more seriously distracts from the big causes, like the planning system, population growth and taxation.”

The spokesperson also criticised the researchers for using “unreliable data” from AirDNA which the organisation claims “overstates how often listings are booked”.

Airbnb argues the report fails to acknowledge that Sydney’s rental vacancy rate is at its highest level in 13 years and ignores the fact that rents in Sydney and across parts of Melbourne have fallen over the past year.

AHURI has hit back, saying: “We emphatically refute the Airbnb statement and are confident that a comprehensive reading of the report would repudiate the claims made.”

Lead researcher Laura Crommelin said: “As rental markets in Sydney and Melbourne are unaffordable for lower income renters, even a small reduction in available rental properties is concerning.”

She also said there was some evidence Airbnb was reshaping the market for investment properties, citing estate agents claims that investors would pay a two to three percent premium for properties demonstrating a higher-yielding Airbnb income.

The report urges closer regulation of the short-let industry, backing a regulatory limit of 90 days for short-term letting – not the 180 days currently stipulated for greater Sydney.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Carol Giuseppi welcomed the recommendation, saying: “This is in line with approaches taken around the world.

“We have long argued that renting out premises for more than 90 days is actually a commercial enterprise.”

Ms Giuseppi called for “effective and transparent monitoring” to be put in place.

“Cities internationally have recognised the only way to properly regulate is to put in place a registration scheme to monitor and report on changes and the impacts and we should do the same here,” she said.

“There has long been denial that there are links between short term letting and housing availability – the AHURI report now provides clear evidence of that link.”

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