A parliamentary inquiry has heard growth in the state’s short-stay accommodation market will continue and needs to be managed better in order to prevent rental and housing pressures in pockets of Tasmania.
On the first day of hearings, the Legislative Council select committee on short-term accommodation was told there was evidence property conversions from long-term rentals had restricted supply in Hobart and regional areas such as St Helens and King Island.
Julia Verdouw, from the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania, said there had been a steady growth in listings in most parts of Tasmania over two years.
"Entire properties have grown by 205 per cent statewide," she said.
"Commercial-type listings are continuing to grow as a proportion of all listings and less of the shared-style accommodation."
Dr Verdouw said this correlated with a net housing shortage of 650 homes in the greater Hobart area over the same period.
"Our concern is if we haven't seen peak Airbnb, we're going to continue to see conversions from the private rental market to short-stay accommodation and that is going to impact on vulnerable Tasmanians who are already experiencing housing pressures," she said.
Dr Verdouw said short-stay accommodation growth had been better regulated and contained internationally through permits, a cap on the maximum visitor nights for a property, and a moratorium on new registrations.
Institute director Richard Eccleston said short-stay accommodation in regional areas had mostly helped the tourism economy and serviced underutilised properties but in some places, it had squeezed already small permanent rental markets.
In the cities, particularly Hobart, it had driven up the capital value of properties.
"So there is the issue of rental supply but also housing affordability," Professor Eccleston said.
He said new professional management companies were beginning to emerge as a result of the short-term accommodation market and a number of hosts were down as listing between 20 to 30 properties.
Tenants’ Union of Tasmania senior solicitor Ben Bartl said there needed to be a prohibition on short-term accommodation in the greater Hobart area and a 60-day stay limit in other areas.
He said investors with multiple properties needed to be restricted to one listing at a time.
Mr Bartl said 40 per cent of rental stock in Glamorgan-Spring Bay, 17 per cent in Break O’Day and 6.1 per cent of rental stock in the Hobart local government area had been converted to short-term accommodation.
He said entire property listings in Hobart had increased from 60 per cent to 78 per cent over the last year.
Eacham Curry, from home-sharing platform HomeAway, said he supported a mandatory code of conduct and register for all short-term accommodation properties.
He said operators should sign a declaration of minimum standards for occupational health and safety, particularly fire safety, and for minimum insurance coverage.
Mr Curry said discussions with the state government on data sharing were ongoing
He said the data needed to be collected evenly and fairly from all short-term stay accommodation platforms but some of the data was commercially sensitive.
"We have discussed entering into a non-disclosure agreement in order to try to find a way through that," Mr Curry said
Local Government Association of Tasmania chief executive Katrina Stephenson said the government’s planning directive on short-stay accommodation properties limited council powers on listings for a primary residence or secondary property of less than four rooms.
She said councils only had discretion if they were larger properties listed such as former boarding houses.
Dr Stephenson said there was a need for hard data on where there were short-stay accommodation densities and where conversions from long-term rentals had occurred.
LGAT policy officer Dion Lester said short-term accommodation listings in regional towns had prevented a workforce from being temporarily settled for seasonal hospitality work and construction work.
He said King Island’s tourism growth had resulted in a big drift towards short-term accommodation conversion but developers now struggled to find rentals to house a temporary construction workforce for projects.
Mr Lester said short-term accommodation costs put about $1000 on the cost of a long-term rental which meant construction of planned hotels to cater for more visitation was unaffordable.
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the test of the government’s legislation, due to be introduced by the end of the year, would be on local government’s ability to enforce it.
He said another test would be the the ability for communities to determine where they want visitor accommodation to be situated.