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Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Unfair B’n’B, opportunism and you

homesweethomeless

If you can do something to benefit yourself, should you? What if that thing you do to benefit yourself has long-term negative ramifications for others? What if your benefit is at the cost of others but this was never your intention? Are you still responsible? Does this make you ethically questionable? Are you still a good person?

Should you be asked to limit your benefit in the interest of the greater good? Is that even fair? If the system allows you opportunities to profit, even at the expense of others, are you cleansed of any moral imperative to make more ‘ethical’ decisions? Would you be able to limit your own personal benefit for the greater good?

If it’s good for you then does it matter if it’s not good for others? And could you self-regulate? Would you be willing to take less so that others with less could have a little more? It seems ironic that as kids we are taught to share. Punished when we don’t. But when we grow up, we stop sharing. We hoard our assets and the privilege they bring as some sort of entitlement bestowed on us through our economic worthiness.

These are some of the philosophical questions we need to grapple with in the broader conversation about this thing called ‘affordable housing’. The biggest problem facing housing affordability in our area, and anywhere else as far as I see it, is rampant opportunism. You can’t regulate against that. It’s the stuff of personal responsibility.

So what I’m asking is, are you a good person? Are you able to put others before yourself? Or doesn’t that count any more? I was shocked to read that more than 1,000 of the new studio/granny-flat approvals in our region are rented on AirBnB. The granny-flat plan was a quick fix for the many people in our area who required self-contained single accommodation. Wrong. The granny-flat plan became a way to create a new income stream.

Why would you rent out a granny flat for $300 a week when you could rent it to holiday-makers over summer for $1,200? Seems like a no-brainer. A friend calls it Unfair BnB. And it is.

Must really suck living in your car watching holiday-makers enjoy garden flats that you could be living in. I even heard of a woman and her kids who were renting a tent in someone’s backyard for $25 a night on AirBnB because they couldn’t find any long-term accommodation. What kind of monster rents a tent to a single mum for $25 a night? It’s sociopathic.

Imagine the difference to our housing market if 1,000 studios and small self-contained flats were made available to the many people in our region seeking accommodation. It would create an instant solution to the housing crisis, funnelling tourists back into approved and regulated tourist outlets and, at times of full occupancy, they’d be funnelled back to other regions, letting the dollar inflation hit the holiday market instead of residential housing market.

I understand the plight of someone trying to subsidise their unaffordable mortgage by renting a garden flat to travellers at a price point that would be unaffordable to a long-term renter, but isn’t this part of the problem? One person’s profiteering creates the poverty of another. AirBnB has been an internet gateway for opportunism. Clean out a space, take a few pics, and whacko, you have ‘Byron Bay Garden Flat short walk to beach’.

If you can get $600 for your space, how hard is it to settle for $200? Capitalism has taught us that greed is good. Many of us don’t see the unaffordability problem as something we could change. We think it’s something the state government or council should deal with. But the way I see it, no matter what happens, the human desire to profiteer always wins out. Housing affordability needs to be personalised. We are all responsible.

If you are a landlord, would you drop your rent? Would you consider renting your AirBnB studio to a single mum? Would you be prepared to make a difference? Or does my suggesting this make you intensely uncomfortable? Do you think you’re as uncomfortable as the single mum with three kids living in a tent? I wonder.

Do you care about housing affordability?

All this and more, discussed at the Affordable Housing Rally – 10am Saturday at the Council Chambers, with an action forum at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club from 11am till 4pm.


12 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Unfair B’n’B, opportunism and you”

  1. Vasumi says:

    Thankyou so much Mandy, for address another of those ‘head in the sand’ and yet so OBVIOUS quest-i-ons…
    Bravo to you dear heArt!!!

  2. Turiya Bruce says:

    The problem is also that the quality of people’s health mental and otherwise in the rental field has made people go for a series of short term people over a long term stress case.
    I rent and share to help pay my $ 2060 a month rent. I have shared with alcoholics, narcissists, entitled untidy messes to unwell and disabled people and cult followers who on first or second meeting said all the right things.
    It has not been easy but i have learned to cut and run when i need to and say NO to that which is taking advantage.
    That this region attracts a rainbow of people is such that to grow here as a human requires a great deal of tenacity self respect and compassion. And firm boundaries.
    I would like to see the Air Bnb story fade to nothing as we grow to incorporate difference and kindness and a fair sense of play in sharing our homes. As the original people have so generously and at great cost.
    Entitlement is not the new black. Compassion is.

  3. Sue says:

    Depends if the single Mum and her children are happy to rent in Lismore or other inland centres with excellent community infrastructure, schools and lower rents or a cruisey expensive lifestyle on the coast including Byron.

  4. Mullum Rush says:

    More questions….
    How many affordable homes do we need to solve the problem?
    Would there ever be enough? Or would it be a case of the more supply the more demand?
    Is it realistic to provide affordable housing for everyone that moves into this area? Is there a limit to how much can be provided?
    Why is it fair to expect a land lord drop his rent to subsidise someone who could otherwise choose to live in an affordable area?
    Would it not also be fair to expect a home owner to drop their sale price when selling?
    Why Is affordable housing a local council issue? (Page 5 of councils special rate variation booklet explains where our general rate expenditure goes, it does not list provision of affordable housing).

  5. Larry Larstead says:

    Yes

  6. Fiona says:

    What evil charging for a tent, nasty landlords! There are so many good people in Byron which is why I’m a little surprised I don’t see more tents in people’s yards with a sign out the front – free for single mums doing it tough! And what I don’t get is that there are so many good people with so many empty couches each night, and yet the homeless people can’t seem to find these empty couches, weird. But those nasty landlords hey, I definitely sleep better at night knowing I’m one of the good people.

  7. Martin says:

    I was initially very supportive of the ‘sharing economy’, which at its best offers buyers and sellers a means of interacting directly, cutting out the middleman by substituting him/her with an online platform, and offering both buyers and sellers a better deal. However, some players in this type of economy have gone on to become corporate giants – Uber, Airbnb, and eBay years earlier.

    However there is a positive movement to get cooperative and ethical sharing economy businesses off the ground. See http://www.shareable.net/blog/11-platform-cooperatives-creating-a-real-sharing-economy

    In terms of Airbnb in Byron Bay, the only way that this can be controlled is via regulation. For as long as people are being economically squeezed, many will be looking for both ethical and less-ethical means of topping up their incomes.

  8. Mona says:

    When I lived in Sydney I wanted to live in Bondi. But it seemed like everybody else did too. Tourists also wanted to stay in Bondi. There were only so many flats, so I couldn’t afford the rents they were asking and had to find a place further from the beach where I really wanted to live. Somebody should write a book about it.

  9. Daniel Flesch says:

    To those saying the homeless of Byron should leave for somewhere more affordable : what places are you recommending? As an ex-resident of both Lismore and Byron , i ‘d suggest the rents are not significantly cheaper inland ,and in most cases landlords won’t rent to people on Centrelink anyway. That’s why socially aware and sympathetic Byron homeowners could rent their granny flats out to low-income people for affordable rent and get something in kind on top – gardening , dog-walking , cleaning , shopping ,car-washing for example. Of course this involves a big dollop of empathy as opposed to opportunism. There was plenty of that in the fair go , egalitarian , sympathy for the underdog in the now-obliterated old Australia . Now it’s all about “aspiration ” and “getting ahead ” . Nice try , Mandy , but the numbers are against us. Even some of the comments here show that.

  10. Angie says:

    I am a single mum and I found it impossible to get a stable affordable house …..after 4 years my only choice was to beg and borrow and live on the thinnest of thin budgets so I could buy a house…now I rely on Air BNB to help me pay the mortgage.

  11. Ginette Flamia says:

    One of the problems I came across when living below the poverty line, looking for accommodation in this area, was that most homeowners didn’t want to sign the rental agreement form; so I could receive rent assistance.

    They were happy to welcome me into their home, but not when it meant letting centrelink know they were getting help paying their mortgage.

    But, what if the taxman gave homeowners a financial incentive to house those of us on a low income. We would have less homeless, less people living below the poverty line, more honesty, care and kindness within our community.

    I was a homeowner once. I mortgaged my house four times to raise my kids above the poverty line. I know what it’s like. The stress of a financial debt can be debilitating.

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