18 May 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:58): I move:
That this council—
1. Notes that South Australia’s rental market is under extreme pressure with:
(a) a decrease in vacancy rates below 0.5 per cent;
(b) a rise in median rental prices of 12.9 per cent in the 12 months prior to January 2023; and
(c) 83,821 vacant homes in South Australia at last Census night.
2. Acknowledges that:
(a) short-term accommodation affects supply in the long-term rental market; and
(b) other jurisdictions such as London and Berlin have introduced regulations to limit short-term accommodation to a maximum of 90 nights per annum.
3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to regulate the short-term rental market by:
(a) capping the number of nights a property can be rented as short-term accommodation;
(b) capping the number of properties that can be rented for short-term rental accommodation; and
(c) incentivising the return of short-term accommodation to the long-term rental market.
The motion that I am moving today also relates to the rental crisis engulfing our state, but in particular it relates to the need to regulate the short-term rental market. In particular, it calls on the Malinauskas government to cap the number of nights a property can be rented as short-term accommodation. It calls for a cap on the number of properties that can be rented for short-term accommodation, and it also calls for the government to look at incentivising the return of short-term accommodation to the long-term rental market.
In making the case for action, I want to highlight to this chamber some of the key statistics. The waitlist for social housing now in South Australia has grown to more than 17,000 people. The availability of long-term rental accommodation continues to diminish. In fact, according to the latest figures from property research firm CoreLogic—and these were released back in January; I think it has actually got worse since then—the rental vacancy rate in Adelaide has dropped to just 0.4 per cent.
There are high rates of rental stress. On Census night, 30.5 per cent of all renter households, or 58,177 renter households in South Australia, were paying more than 30 per cent of their household income on rent. Rent prices are spiralling out of control, and what is the Malinauskas government doing?
Access to safe and secure housing is one of our most basic human rights, yet here in South Australia we have people sleeping in cars, tents and on the street because of a lack of available rental accommodation. This is particularly an issue in regional South Australia where we have some properties that are sitting vacant for six months of the year while we have people in those communities sleeping in tents.
A few years ago now, when I first started in this role, I travelled to Port Lincoln and met with a number of community groups. One of the issues that they are confronting at the moment is the lack of affordable rental accommodation in that community. The cause of that was the COVID-19 pandemic initially because during that time of course there was not interstate or overseas travel. A number of South Australians elected to travel intrastate—that is, to engage in travel from, say, Adelaide over to Port Lincoln or other regional centres—and therefore a number of landlords found it more desirable to move their accommodation from the long-term rental market into the short-stay market as they could make a lot more money.
That has resulted in a shortage of affordable rental accommodation in those regions, and it is contributing to the turbocharging of the market that we are seeing at the moment. That is why the Greens are suggesting that there should be a cap on the number of nights that a property is on Airbnb. We are suggesting that there be some incentives put on the table as part of the Malinauskas government's second budget to encourage those who own Airbnbs to move those into the long-term market. That would be a really good outcome.
Another issue I should highlight that the Greens have been looking at is the need to target vacant dwellings. On Census night back in 2021, there were 83,821 vacant homes in South Australia. Some people will say, 'Look, a lot of those might be that you were staying with a friend, or visiting mum and dad or whatever,' and that may well be the case, but even if only half of those properties were vacant on Census night, that is a lot of vacant property in our state, particularly when we consider we have almost 20,000 people on the social housing waitlist, not to mention the thousands of South Australians who are now experiencing housing stress and cannot afford a place to live or a place to rent.
In terms of looking at how to regulate this area, I would encourage the Malinauskas government to look at Berlin. Back in 2016, they implemented some of the world's strictest laws for vacation rentals. It prohibited homesharing, except for people wanting to rent out extra rooms or who received one of a small number of government permits. Official reports by the end of 2017 noted that they had returned about 4,000 apartments to the long-term rental market and collected $3.2 million in fines.
Amsterdam has also looked at this. They have set limits of 30 nights per year that a home can be booked out on Airbnb. Beyond this time, planning permission is needed to change the use of the property. This measure resulted in 80 per cent of properties previously listed on Airbnb being returned to the long-term rental market. New Orleans has zoning laws that restrict holiday rentals to certain locations. Scotland has recently introduced similar laws requiring permission for short-term lets in certain planning control areas.
Let's also not forget that a lot of these properties are being charged a residential rate by their councils, yet they are operating potentially a private business, so there is an area for further regulation. That is why the Greens are calling on the Malinauskas government to regulate the short-term rental market in South Australia by capping the number of nights a property can be rented as short-term accommodation, capping the number of properties that can be rented for short-term rental accommodation, and incentivising the owners of those properties to return them to the long-term market.
I thank you for your indulgence, Mr President. That is all from me on the rental market for today. I will be revisiting the issue when parliament resumes, and I know everybody will be engaging in that debate.
Debate adjourned on motion of L.A. Henderson.