Airbnb ban and mobile home shipping seen as housing crisis bites in coastal cities
Soaring prices. Low salaries. Competetion. Despair.
The unaffordable conditions for Australian homebuyers are spilling over into the rental market for coastal families, and locals say it’s destroying the very reason these towns are popular in the first place.
Owners of Byron Bay, Yamba and Noosa in Lorne and Apollo Bay are increasing rents as the popularity of beach towns continues to soar as closures continue in towns.
Rents rose last year along the coast as people, especially in Victoria, fled to the regions freedom. But they continued their ascent until 2021.
In the 12 months leading up to July of this year, average rental prices in Byron Bay rose almost 30%, according to data from CoreLogic. In Noosa, rents have increased by almost 25%. In Yamba it was 16 percent and in Apollo Bay almost 11 percent.
But the consequences for the cities themselves are even greater, according to locals and experts. When businesses and young families cannot afford to stay, the fabric of the community crumbles.
The tenants of Apollo Bay in Victoria are so desperate to stay in the city that they asked friends if they could camp in their backyard. Others move every six months because owners refuse to put their properties on the market any longer, instead taking advantage of Airbnb.
When long-term rental listings come up, the prices are way outside of what most townspeople can afford.
“These are the Melbourne prices, but no one here is making a salary in Melbourne,” said Natalie Morrow, a mother of five who, with her husband Virge, has until November to find new accommodation.
“The owner [of our house] wants the house back for their own use and there is nothing for us to move into, ”Ms. Morrow said.
The couple applied for a home loan to buy a house in the city before the pandemic, but were told they had too many children to qualify for the loan.
But the rents are now so high that they exceed what the couple would have paid in mortgage repayment had they gotten the loan in the first place.
The Morrows are not only concerned with their well-being, but also with the city they have inhabited for nearly two decades. They fear how Apollo Bay will survive if the families who run local businesses, volunteer for school events, festivals and club soccer are no longer there.
“We are so ingrained in this community. With five children, my fingers are literally in every pie in the community,” Ms. Morrow said.
Local businesses have responded to complaints from visitors about sluggish service or reduced opening hours as there are not enough staff in the city to work, she said.
“We created this problem”
Deakin University Honorary Professor Louise Johnson said the plight of families in coastal towns on Australia’s east coast was a result of the country’s housing policies.
“Housing is a financial asset. It’s something you buy, sell and accumulate for your super or your kids. It’s called the financialization of Australian housing.
“We created this problem, absolutely.”
Prof Johnson said sweeping changes were happening before the pandemic hit, but ongoing closures in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have heightened fear of cities while also making regions safer.
“There is this feeling that the cities are not safe. This anxiety has decreased since last year, but there are still major epidemics and the feeling that the city has no security,” said the professor. Johnson.
“We need more open spaces, we need to get away from the city and be able to get away and work.”
Professor Johnson said seaside towns are often “physically limited” with little land or infrastructure available to build more homes.
Even if more houses were built, she said, without rules ensuring prices were affordable and reserved for workers and families, they would be taken back by investors.
In Apollo Bay, supplies are not the problem with about 70% of the town’s homes empty during the winter, according to Colac Otway Shire.
Professor Johnson agreed that families like the Morrows were often the “backbone” of small towns.
“We’re going to lose the character of these places. Before, they were quite diverse,” she said.
County Councilor Graham Costin said the town was in “a perfect storm”.
“[It’s due to] record interest rates and the increase in rental platforms and lockdowns in the metro area, ”he said.
He said that up the street in Marengo, the average price of a house reached $ 1 million, a 45% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
“Young families form the fabric of the city. They ensure the strength and dynamism of our community and ensure the proper functioning of the school, ”said Councilor Costin.
“They are volunteers for our events and our CFA and our sports club and if we don’t have a steady number of young families the city will retreat.”
Desperate cities eyeing portable buildings
James Allan is the chairman of the Yamba, NSW Chamber of Commerce and said the town suffers from a housing shortage for its tourism and hospitality staff – a model unfolding on along the east coast of Australia.
He said the chamber and council approached the owner of portable buildings to house hotel workers.
The buildings have a shared kitchen and bathroom and were used to house road workers but are now empty.
The owner wanted $ 250 per week for each person staying, including electricity, which was well out of the price range for city workers.
“Last summer we had an oversupply of tourists but an insufficient supply of workers, so large restaurants and cafes had to cut their opening hours in the summer when there were people everywhere with food. ‘money to spend because they didn’t have the staff they needed, ”Mr. Allan said. noted.
Young families, he said, were essential for the growth of the city and the local economy.
“Obviously, those are the most cash-strapped if they are in lower level operational positions,” he said.
Council wants to ban Airbnb
Such is the problem, Colac Otway Shire in western Victoria has created a task force to investigate community land trusts, small houses and higher density residential areas near Main Street.
It also examines how short-term stays like Airbnb could be banned or limited, as well as price concessions for people who offer their properties on long-term rentals.
“Long-term rental returns are not as good as Airbnb, so we could make it financially attractive,” Cr Costin said.
The task force includes the council, Great Ocean Road Health, the Apollo Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Great Ocean Road Authority and small traders.
Council officers will present possible solutions to the council next month and everything is on the table, Cr Costin said.
The task force inspected the properties to determine the amount of land available for mini-homes and temporary trailers.
Banning or limiting the number of properties put on Airbnb is something Cr Costin wants the council and state government to explore.
Although this has never been done in Victoria before, Hobart Council in Tasmania is trying to introduce short-term accommodation regulations to prohibit the issuance of new permits for entire homes.
“European cities like Barcelona also impose upper limits on the number of homes on Airbnb,” Cr Costin said.
As for the Morrow family, they have lived in Apollo Bay for 16 years and have been on a waiting list for a new home for four years.
While desperate, they feel lucky to have a home until November; some families only have a few weeks or days to find new accommodation.
But if they and other families are evicted, Ms Morrow says the bay will turn into a ghost town.
“It really is a sad, sad city,” she said.