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.