Airbnb is disrupting holiday accommodation options.
Airbnb is disrupting holiday accommodation options.

Why we must not have a repeat of Uber

THE digital revolution has enhanced our lives in so many ways.

We now have access to the world's collective knowledge, literally in the palms of our hands.

We are liberated from the drudgeon of waiting for just about anything.

We can arrange home loans, buy cars, secure jobs, and create businesses without leaving home.

We can connect with loved ones across the globe as if they're in our living room.

And the price of so many consumer goods and services has collapsed as data shreds the cost of production.

But of course there's a cost.

We pay for this revolution in many ways, from our loss of privacy to our growing addiction to the screen.

Social media has breathed new malevolent life into bullying and shaming, on a grander scale.

Councillor Dawn Crichlow outside the building where AirBnB keys were chained to council property. Photo by Richard Gosling
Councillor Dawn Crichlow outside the building where AirBnB keys were chained to council property. Photo by Richard Gosling

And job security has become an oxymoron as the digitisation of everything kills traditional employment.

The latest opportunity-cost debate to hit our city concerns holiday accommodation.

Digital innovation has delivered more choice for travellers and a way for 11,000 property owners on the Gold Coast to earn money through subletting websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway.

But, as the world learned with Uber, eBay and Napster, these fabulous new services create problems of their own.

Sub-letting websites are no exception.

Regulators have failed to keep pace with the explosion of these platforms. Their growth has been so rapid it has sparked backlash from communities across the planet. The unforeseen problems include neighbours living alongside what have become party houses, guests disrespecting common rooms and body corporates left vulnerable because their insurance policies do not cover this service.

On the Gold Coast, it is entirely understandable that a sudden influx of Airbnb homes will upset neighbouring homeowners. People who have bought a home believing it to be in a quiet area may find themselves next door to a home converted into a party-central holiday dwelling. It's akin to a de facto rezoning by stealth.

To Airbnb and Homeaway's credit they are calling on the Queensland Government to introduce regulations that will protect homeowners and minimise disruption to neighbourhoods.

Both groups are involved in a workshop, calling on the introduction of laws which would ban hosts from listing on websites after continuous breaches to community standards.

That may not be an entirely altruistic gesture - both companies recognise that if nothing is done they can be shut-out of a community. Air BNB-style short-term rentals have been banned in New York while Paris and Berlin have introduced draconian rezoning laws.

06/04/2018: Former NSW Premier Bob Carr in his offices in Sydney. He is joining the global advisory board for Airbnb. Pic by James Croucher
06/04/2018: Former NSW Premier Bob Carr in his offices in Sydney. He is joining the global advisory board for Airbnb. Pic by James Croucher

In Barcelona, Airbnb was fined almost $1 million for continuing to advertise unlicensed flats.

In any case, it should not be the tail wagging the dog. The State Government must get ahead of this issue before it overwhelms it and we have another Uber-style citizen revolt.

Any business innovation - especially one of this scale - must not be allowed to prosper at the expense of our collective quality of life.



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