More Than 50,000 Homes In NSW Are Being ‘Under-Utilised’ As Airbnbs Instead Of Renting Full-Time

Short term accomodation services such as Airbnb could be having a serious and negative impact on the availability of rentals in Australia, with property owners putting could-be homes up for short leases in order to make more money.

As part of an ongoing housing review the NSW government has estimated that about 100,000 homes are not fully utilised year-round. It also found that about 15,000 are empty all the time, 45,000 are used as holiday homes and more than 33,000 are registered as non-hosted short-term properties.

Short-term rentals include properties listed with services such as Airbnb and Stayz.

This is a staggering surge in numbers of short-term rentals in a relatively a short time. In December 2021, NSW had about 13,000 such rentals, with that number skyrocketing to 52,000 last month.

NSW housing minister Rose Jackson, who is conducting the review, said every part of the state’s housing market was “under the microscope” to help it tackle the ongoing crisis.

“This review will inform our approach to make better use of all forms of housing, including short-term rentals, vacant property and holiday homes.

“This includes looking at ways to move some of this housing to the long-term rental market and to minimise its negative impacts on the housing market as well as what we can do to support homelessness services across NSW.”

However PropTrak economist Cameron Kusher said that people should be wary of such numbers around empty houses.

“If you look at the census data, there’s about 1 million houses around the country that are vacant on census night,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“And there’s a whole number of reasons those houses might be vacant at any given time; people might be travelling, people might be away for the night, might be fixing up the house, things like that.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics put out some data that looked at electricity use and found that actually only about 2.5% of those houses weren’t occupied. So I’d be wary of using that data,” he said.

He also said that of the 2.5% that were empty, there was no clue as to their condition and such homes could be unliveable.

Despite this, he agreed that a key component of easing the housing crisis was freeing up existing buildings, whether that changes to short-term rental rules or turning buildings such as disused hotels into homes.

“If you look at the Queensland state government, they’re taking a lot of vacant hotels, motels and retirement villages and the plan is to turn those into social housing.

“I think that’s a good way to add to housing supply. It’s cheaper than putting in new property and it gets to the market a lot quicker, so perhaps other states and territories could look at doing similar to that.”

Such changes could be similar to those seen in Victoria, where the government last year announced large levies on platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz in order to persuade people to rent out homes to long-term renters and fund social housing programmes.