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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Housing at ‘crisis point’: Evicted tenants discover former Kirribilli rental unit on Airbnb

Flat Chat: A win for Airbnb is a huge blow to residents Sydney MP Alex Greenwich at odds with City of Sydney over pro-Airbnb proposals A young couple who were evicted from their rental unit in Kirribilli after a two-year stay to make way for the family who owned it, were shocked, after they’d moved out, to spot it being advertised on Airbnb. What’s more, their small two-bedroom, $540-a-week apartment was being shown as three separate rooms with a capacity to sleep nine – for a total possible weekly fee of $1890. In what critics of Airbnb say is now happening across Sydney, “bleeding the residential housing market dry”, the couple have now been forced to move to a completely different part of the city. Nicholas Louisson used to rent at the apartment block behind him in Kirribilli, however his lease was terminated and the landlord started using the apartment for Airbnb tenants. Nicholas Louisson used to rent at the apartment block behind him in Kirribilli, however his lease was terminated and the landlord started using the apartment for Airbnb tenants. Photo: Jessica Hromas They were left devastated. “What chance do people like us stand who want to rent in the area they grew up in, when people push them out of their beautiful homes just so they can make so much more money by renting them commercially?” says Nicholas Louisson, 28, who works in marketing procurement. “It was our first home together, we loved living there, it was just opposite my work, and we imagined staying there for up to the next 10 years of our lives. But then when we started looking for another apartment in the suburb to rent, there was so little available, and so much competition for it, because so much there is now on Airbnb. “It’s wrong that this is being allowed to happen.” Airbnb has become a force to be reckoned with in the accommodation and travel industry. Airbnb has become a force to be reckoned with in the accommodation and travel industry. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images Indeed, there are currently 13 one-bedroom apartments and 18 two-bedroom apartments to rent in Kirribilli listed on property site domain.com.au. On Airbnb, there are 306 listings of properties to rent. Kirribilli was named as one of the Airbnb hotspots in a study conducted by Fairfax Media this year. The group Neighbours Not Strangers, critics of Airbnb when it pushes homes away from residential use and into short-term lets, says this is typical of what’s happening everywhere in Sydney, and globally. “We’re at a crisis point with housing now,” says convenor Trish Burt. “From May this year there’s been a 75.5 per cent increase in listings in Airbnb in Sydney, that’s 23,558 Sydney dwellings no longer available for people to live in. They’re bleeding the residential housing market dry.” North Sydney Council, when told of the couple’s situation, said it would investigate. A spokesman said: “At the moment, North Sydney Council defines an Airbnb-type stay as short-term accommodation [which] is considered a commercial activity and outside the permitted use within residential zones in terms of the North Sydney LEP. “Properties in residential zones are considered to be for residential occupation and not for short-term letting except as permanent residential occupation, usually defined as a period of three months or more.” Airbnb spokesman Dylan Smith said the company proactively reminds its hosts of their obligations to follow locally set rules and regulations. “Overwhelmingly, Airbnb hosts in NSW are everyday people – mums and dads, seniors and young families – who occasionally list their primary residence or spare room to make a modest extra bit of income,” he said. “Our hosts tell us this extra income helps pay down the mortgage, cover bills and household expenses. Others list their home to pay for their own holiday away with the family once or twice a year.” But Louisson, now living with his girlfriend in Waterloo, says he’s angry not only for himself and other renters driven out of their homes, but also about the risks to those Airbnb customers. “Our old bedroom is advertised with a queen bed and a single, capable of sleeping three; the second bedroom has a bed and a trundle underneath with a double bed so that’s for four, and then the living room couch is shown being made into a bed to sleep two,” he says. “I just wonder what would happen if there was a fire or anything went wrong? They’ve put a second fridge in front of the back door, which is technically a fire exit, so how would all those people escape quickly?” With the same family owning more than one of the four units in the boutique block on Hipwood Street, it effectively has control of the Owners Corporation, so no one can stop them. A family with two small children renting the fourth apartment have already complained about all the noise, strangers in the block and people barging their way constantly through the common areas with luggage, but are fearful their landlord will choose to evict them and do the same. When contacted by Fairfax Media, however, the owner of Louisson’s old apartment, Louise Ommundson, a director of custom-made furniture company Evostyle, said she’d received complaints from the people living in the block and had now, as a result, decided to stop it being used for Airbnb. She said her brother, Chris Cooper, had rented the unit from her and subsequently turned it over to Airbnb. “It’s going to go back to a rental place,” she said. “It isn’t working out with the other residents. I’m not against Airbnb, but that place isn’t the right environment for that sort of thing. It’s caused a lot of anguish.” At the time of publishing, the apartment was still being advertised on Airbnb. When Fairfax Media suggested she offer it back to Louisson, Ommundson said: “I hadn’t thought of that but I’d be happy to. He was a good tenant.” Louisson says he complained to North Sydney Council but nothing had been done. “It’s actually not legal to turn a residential apartment building effectively into a commercial business, but nothing has happened,” he says. “You’re not meant to have tenants there for less than three months, but now it’s changing nightly. And you wonder how much money they’ll make on New Year’s Eve. “I’m just incredibly upset about what happened. I love Kirribilli and imagined I’d be spending the next 10 years there. It’s so peaceful and quiet and yet nearly everything’s within a 10-minute walk. But now it seems it’s just for rich people or for tourists.” Ironically, under proposals currently before NSW Parliament, North Sydney could soon no longer be able to ban short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb. Burt, from Neighbours Not Strangers, says the success of Airbnb is the envy of all short-term lease operators who are now all trying to follow suit, too. “We are just leaking housing now, even while everyone debates the lack of affordable housing,” she says. “It’s so distressing on so many levels.” https://www.facebook.com/events/335717233453448/permalink/358619071163264/?hc_location=ufi Indeed, there are currently 13 one-bedroom apartments and 18 two-bedroom apartments to rent in Kirribilli listed on property site domain.com.au. On Airbnb, there are 306 listings of properties to rent. Kirribilli was named as one of the Airbnb hotspots in a study conducted by Fairfax Media this year. The group Neighbours Not Strangers, critics of Airbnb when it pushes homes away from residential use and into short-term lets, says this is typical of what’s happening everywhere in Sydney, and globally. “We’re at a crisis point with housing now,” says convenor Trish Burt. “From May this year there’s been a 75.5 per cent increase in listings in Airbnb in Sydney, that’s 23,558 Sydney dwellings no longer available for people to live in. They’re bleeding the residential housing market dry.” North Sydney Council, when told of the couple’s situation, said it would investigate. A spokesman said: “At the moment, North Sydney Council defines an Airbnb-type stay as short-term accommodation [which] is considered a commercial activity and outside the permitted use within residential zones in terms of the North Sydney LEP. “Properties in residential zones are considered to be for residential occupation and not for short-term letting except as permanent residential occupation, usually defined as a period of three months or more.” Airbnb spokesman Dylan Smith said the company proactively reminds its hosts of their obligations to follow locally set rules and regulations. “Overwhelmingly, Airbnb hosts in NSW are everyday people – mums and dads, seniors and young families – who occasionally list their primary residence or spare room to make a modest extra bit of income,” he said. “Our hosts tell us this extra income helps pay down the mortgage, cover bills and household expenses. Others list their home to pay for their own holiday away with the family once or twice a year.” But Louisson, now living with his girlfriend in Waterloo, says he’s angry not only for himself and other renters driven out of their homes, but also about the risks to those Airbnb customers. “Our old bedroom is advertised with a queen bed and a single, capable of sleeping three; the second bedroom has a bed and a trundle underneath with a double bed so that’s for four, and then the living room couch is shown being made into a bed to sleep two,” he says. “I just wonder what would happen if there was a fire or anything went wrong? They’ve put a second fridge in front of the back door, which is technically a fire exit, so how would all those people escape quickly?” With the same family owning more than one of the four units in the boutique block on Hipwood Street, it effectively has control of the Owners Corporation, so no one can stop them. A family with two small children renting the fourth apartment have already complained about all the noise, strangers in the block and people barging their way constantly through the common areas with luggage, but are fearful their landlord will choose to evict them and do the same. When contacted by Fairfax Media, however, the owner of Louisson’s old apartment, Louise Ommundson, a director of custom-made furniture company Evostyle, said she’d received complaints from the people living in the block and had now, as a result, decided to stop it being used for Airbnb. She said her brother, Chris Cooper, had rented the unit from her and subsequently turned it over to Airbnb. “It’s going to go back to a rental place,” she said. “It isn’t working out with the other residents. I’m not against Airbnb, but that place isn’t the right environment for that sort of thing. It’s caused a lot of anguish.” At the time of publishing, the apartment was still being advertised on Airbnb. When Fairfax Media suggested she offer it back to Louisson, Ommundson said: “I hadn’t thought of that but I’d be happy to. He was a good tenant.” Louisson says he complained to North Sydney Council but nothing had been done. “It’s actually not legal to turn a residential apartment building effectively into a commercial business, but nothing has happened,” he says. “You’re not meant to have tenants there for less than three months, but now it’s changing nightly. And you wonder how much money they’ll make on New Year’s Eve. “I’m just incredibly upset about what happened. I love Kirribilli and imagined I’d be spending the next 10 years there. It’s so peaceful and quiet and yet nearly everything’s within a 10-minute walk. But now it seems it’s just for rich people or for tourists.” Ironically, under proposals currently before NSW Parliament, North Sydney could soon no longer be able to ban short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb. Burt, from Neighbours Not Strangers, says the success of Airbnb is the envy of all short-term lease operators who are now all trying to follow suit, too. “We are just leaking housing now, even while everyone debates the lack of affordable housing,” she says. “It’s so distressing on so many levels.”

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