Part of the Greens’ Housing Justice platform for the March 2024 Brisbane City Council election.
Across South-East Queensland, the conversion of residential investment properties into short-term accommodation via platforms like Airbnb has taken thousands of homes out of the long-term rental market.
While Airbnb certainly isn’t the fundamental cause of Australia’s housing crisis, returning homes which were converted into short-term accommodation back to local residents helps discourage the treatment of housing as a commodity and would immediately make hundreds of existing homes available to locals who are struggling to find a rental.
When residential houses and apartments that weren’t designed for short-term accommodation are used as hotel rooms on an ongoing basis, this can also detrimentally impact neighbours’ quality of life, and place greater strain and maintenance burdens on shared facilities and carparking.
But under the LNP, Brisbane City Council is still putting the short-term financial interests of property investors ahead of people who need homes to live in.
Greens on Brisbane City Council aim to:
- Free up rental properties by increasing the rates for all dwellings that are rented out as short-term accommodation for more than 45 days per year (to 1000% of the rates payable for an equivalent residential investment property)
- In areas where the community doesn't think short-term accommodation is appropriate at all, introduce a complete ban on dwellings being used as short-term accommodation for more than 45 days per year, except for purpose-built units in close proximity to areas where short-term accommodation is clearly needed, such as major tourist attractions, business hubs, hospitals and public transport nodes.
Targeting mega investors, not families
This policy wouldn’t prevent residents renting out a spare room in their own home as short-term accommodation. It also wouldn’t prevent residents renting out their home temporarily while they are travelling out of town for work or recreation.
These changes would only affect investment properties that are rented out as short-term accommodation for more than 45 days per year - the kinds of properties that should either be returned to the long-term rental market, or paying a fairer share of rates.
How this would work
After strong pressure from the Greens, in 2022, Brisbane City Council introduced separate rates categories for ‘Transitory Accommodation’ houses and units. The rates for transitory accommodation investment properties are 50% higher than for equivalent investment properties rented out to long-term tenants.
This 'Transitory Accommodation' category currently applies to properties that are made available as short-term rental accommodation for more than 60 days of the year.
The Greens proposal would:
- Amend the Transitory Accommodation rates categories to apply to properties rented for more than 45 days per year rather than 60 days per year.
- Increase the higher rates from 150% of the standard rates to 1000%.
- Assign council inspectors to undertake more proactive, diligent enforcement to identify properties being rented on Airbnb in locations where the City Plan doesn’t allow it, and to identify Airbnb properties that aren’t being charged under the Transitory Accommodation rates category but should be.
- Rewrite the City Plan with community input, in order to prohibit investment properties being built or converted to short-term rental accommodation in residential neighbourhoods and buildings where the community would prefer to see housing used for local residents.
This would mean that whereas an inner-city investment apartment would ordinarily attract a council rates bill of around $1800 per year, if it is listed on Airbnb or similar platforms for more than 45 days of the year, the rates bill would increase to $18 000.
Will this solve the housing crisis?
On its own, this initiative will not solve the housing crisis, but it will house thousands of people. This is just part of a package of Housing Justice policies the Greens will be announcing for the Brisbane City Council election.
In the short-term, this policy would lead to hundreds of dwellings transitioning from Airbnb back to long-term rentals, and would also send a message to investors that the city wants more residential housing, not more Airbnb. This means fewer renters would be evicted due to investors turning their homes into Airbnb hotels.
The Greens have also been fighting for the Queensland and Federal Governments to stop passing the buck and take greater action on the housing crisis. That’s why we’re proposing strong policies at the local government level too – because all governments have a part to play in fixing our broken housing system.
How many properties would this affect?
A UQ Study published in June 2023 estimated that at any given point in time, over 2000 Brisbane homes were available for rent as short-term accommodation on Airbnb and other similar platforms (1).
As of August 2023, with very limited investigation and enforcement, Brisbane City Council has already formally identified 990 residential investment properties which are being used as short-term Airbnb-style accommodation on an ongoing basis (2). More robust and diligent enforcement would likely identify hundreds more.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how many investors would convert their Airbnb properties back to long-term rentals, how many would simply pay the higher rates, and how many would sell up. But with several thousand Airbnbs currently operating across Brisbane, we estimate that this initiative would lead to approximately one thousand houses and apartments being added to the long-term rental market.
(1) A Review of the Impacts of Short-term Rental Accommodation in Queensland, June 2023, Professor Bond et al., University of Queensland.
(2) Brisbane City Council Meeting Minutes, 22 August, 2023, page 88.