Global ‘home-sharing’, local housing markets and neighbourhoods


Following the recent CaCHE seminar on short-term lets, Professor Nicole Gurran from the University of Sydney shares insights from the Australian perspective, examining the impact on residential neighbourhoods, the current policy and planning responses and the challenges for research and practice.

Since the launch of ‘Airbnb’ in 2008, the market for tourist accommodation in residential homes and neighbourhoods has exploded. As a housing researcher and urban planner, I and colleagues have been examining what happens when tourists ‘move in’ to residential neighbourhoods, the policy and planning responses used in different cities and the challenges for research and practice.

We’ve focussed particularly on cities and regions in Australia, finding that many smaller communities are familiar with second home tourism, including the conflicts that can arise when tourism is poorly managed.

‘Home-sharing’ in the cities

In the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, it’s a different story. Visitor accommodation has been concentrated near central or waterfront areas, so the rapid suburban spreading of tourism through ‘home-sharing’ platforms (Sydney’s listings grew from around 10,000 to 33,430 homes between 2015 and 2019) is a new and unanticipated phenomenon.

That said, as a proportion of housing across the metropolitan region, short term holiday rentals remain limited – only around 2% in the case of Sydney. However, listings concentrate on accessible inner urban areas. For instance, in the beachside area of Waverley, around 11% of the entire housing stock is listed on the Airbnb platform (using data derived from Inside Airbnb and the Australian Bureau of Statistics). Inner areas such as Waverley also have higher population density and more apartments, so the impacts of tourism are often more apparent.

Impacts on local neighbourhoods

There is a long body of research on potential conflicts between tourists and local residents. Issues range from traffic congestion and crowding, to impacts from noise and anti-social or culturally inappropriate behaviour, through to a ‘touristification’ of local neighbourhoods.

‘Home-sharing’ platforms have exponentially increased the potential for such impacts to take hold.

Our Australian research documents the sense of alienation described by local residents in tightly knit communities now popular with weekend party makers; the sense of loss associated with no longer knowing your neighbour; and the sense of unease when residential apartments start to resemble hotels.

Housing market impacts

With platforms such as Airbnb refusing to release data on their listings, it’s difficult to measure the precise impact of ‘home-sharing’ platforms on local house prices or rents. However, a growing number of studies are demonstrating that removing housing units exacerbates problems with rental supply.

In any housing market where affordable rental supply is a problem, converting homes to tourist accommodation will make things worse.

Regulatory ‘combat’

Concern to protect permanent housing stock underpins many of the attempts made by cities throughout the world to regulate or prevent the listing of residential homes on platforms such as Airbnb.

But when your business model exploits the ability to evade the regulations that apply to more traditional operators – such as formal tourist accommodation providers – it’s often preferable to challenge the rules through expensive legal action than comply.

In designing a policy response, cities must consider whether it’s important to defend local housing units for local housing need; whether there are specific neighbourhoods that may be particularly vulnerable to ‘touristification’; and how to develop viable strategies for implementing fair ‘sharing’ regulations.

In doing so, planners must come to grips with the changing ways in which homes are being used – blurring boundaries between domestic and commercial space – and how this may shift over time.

For cities burdened by housing affordability pressures, maintaining investment in social housing provision, supporting wider production of diverse and lower-cost housing, and protecting tenants from unfair rental increases or evictions, is more important than ever.

Professor Nicole Gurran is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Sydney.

Views expressed by authors may not represent the views of CaCHE.


Date: July 24, 2019 3:14 pm


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