Launceston is at risk of following Hobart into a highly stressed and competitive housing rental market, according to Tasmania’s peak body for affordable housing.
Shelter Tasmania’s executive officer Pattie Chugg fears for the Northern region’s market were echoed by Ben Bartl from the Tenants' Union of Tasmania and Anglicare’s Meg Webb.
They believe the state’s growing “housing crisis” can be linked in many ways to the influx of short-term accommodation providers through the likes of Airbnb and Stayz.
Both companies say other factors like population growth, dwelling construction rates and investor demand are all key drivers in the squeezed rental market.
There is not enough data to show the true effect short-term accommodation has on the rental market, but reliable data to help quantify the extent of the impacts is urgently needed, Ms Webb said.
Ms Webb is the manager of Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre and said consideration must be given as to how to best ensure any negative impact on rental availability and affordability is offset.
“Based on what we have seen in our Rental Affordability Snapshot over the past couple of years, we believe that Launceston, like Hobart, is facing an increasingly competitive rental market and what appears to be a loss of private rental properties to the short stay accommodation market,” she said.
“Anglicare’s 2017 Rental Affordability Snapshot found … that the North had experienced a continuing decline in the number of advertised properties.”
Ms Chugg said rental vacancies in Launceston were about a percentage point lower than at the same time last year, at 2.5 per cent.
“This suggests a tightening in Launceston’s rental housing market,” she said.
“While not yet as severe as in Hobart, we anticipate a similar trend to follow as housing prices continue to rise ... and demand for short term holiday rentals increases.”
HOBART CASE STUDY
If the experience of Hobart is any indication, the lack of hotel rooms in Launceston is likely to result in more landlords offering their properties through short-term accommodation providers, the Tenants' Union says.
“Data compiled by Anglicare demonstrates that there has been a 15 per cent reduction in available longer term private rental accommodation in the last year,” Mr Bartl said.
“As well, the Institute for the Study of Social Change reports that there has been a 60 per cent drop in supply from five years ago.”
Mr Bartl said the vacancy rate for Launceston had dropped from 3.3 per cent in November, 2016 to 2.7 per cent in July, 2017.
“It is unclear what impact short-term accommodation providers have had, but it is likely that increased attention about a hotel shortage is likely to see some landlords shift from long-term tenants to providing short-term accommodation,” he said.
“In our experience short-term accommodation providers have had little impact on the North's rental market and rental affordability, but this may be changing.”
Ms Chugg anticipates the Rental Affordability Index, due to be released later this month, to show a further decline in affordability across all of Tasmania’s major centres.
“As well as making rooms available in homes, Airbnb also diverts around 430 entire dwellings from long term rental housing supply in Launceston,” she said.
“The number of properties advertised for rent in Launceston has declined by 36 per cent since the emergence of Airbnb. This does not appear to be a coincidence.”
Ms Webb said the effect of short-stay accommodation was mainly an issue when a property is taken out of the rental market and put into the short-stay market.
“Other places around the world have recognised this and looked at ways to respond,” she said.
The Tenants' Union believes there needs to be a cap on the number of nights entire homes can be rented out through short-term accommodation providers.
“Our thinking is that given that school holidays over summer are six weeks, the limit on renting entire properties should be around four to six weeks per year,” Mr Bartl said.
“The current de-reguation model adopted by the state government means that some landlords are choosing to keep properties empty for most of the year, so that over summer and other peak tourist periods a significant profit can be made.
“In our opinion, a cap on the number of days a property can be rented out through Airbnb and Stayz provides the appropriate balance.”
Stayz head of government relations Eacham Curry said it was incorrect to claim short-term rental accommodation was solely responsible for movements in the price and availability of properties in the long-term rental market.
“Punitive measures against homeowners, like use restrictions and financial levies, will discourage Tasmanians from listing their properties and will drive up the cost of accommodation,” he said.
“This will have will have a detrimental impact on the local jobs and economic growth that are dependent on the booming tourist economy in northern Tasmania.”
Mr Curry said the state government should focus on implementing the new planning code for short-term rental accommodation, not new regulation.
“Upon releasing these new regulations for public comment, the Tasmanian government received minimal complaint about the proposed regulatory scheme for the sector.
“This shows that Tasmanians remain very comfortable with the level of regulation for the industry.”
State Treasurer Peter Gutwein said while rental demand was increasing so was supply.
“We have had the single largest number of dwelling approvals out of all states and territories, so the market is exciting,” he said.
“We are seeing more people [tourists] coming to Tasmania, they want more beds and as a result there are some pressures that do impact on the rental market but we are seeing the market react to that.”