Tasmanian Government tries to matchmake landlords and low-income renters with cash
The Tasmanian Government will pay homeowners up to $13,000 if they make their properties available to low-income renters, in a new bid to address the state’s housing crisis.
And in a major shift, new Housing Minister Roger Jaensch seems to be leaving the door open to regulating the short-term accommodation led by Airbnb.
Mr Jaensch has announced an incentive package to match low-income households with suitable, affordable accommodation while providing landlords in the south with a payment of between $10,000 and $13,000, and landlords in the north and north-west with $10,000.
“We’re trying to introduce more low-income households to affordable ways into the private rental market,” he said.
“And we’re trying to introduce the private property owners to the idea of making their properties available for long-term rental to low-income families.”
Mr Jaensch said the incentive package would give landlords a guaranteed payment of rent for at least one year.
“The idea here is we can make use of more of the privately owned rental accommodation in Tasmania and make it available to more of the low-income families who are under housing stress now,” he said.
“We estimate that it can help 110 households into affordable accommodation.”
The initiative is designed to target properties within the lower price range of the private rental market.
‘A chance to help’
Welfare and social service groups have welcomed the program.
“This is one aspect that can make a difference in providing homes and houses and a roof over people’s heads,” said Stuart Foster from the Salvation Army.
Kym Goodes with the Tasmanian Council of Social Service admits to some degree, homeowners would be taking part out of the goodness of their hearts.
“It will push their rental value back to almost what it might have been in the private rental market without that incentive,” Ms Goodes said.
“We would hope that many Tasmanians who have wanted to put their hand up and help in some way, and own a private rental property, use this opportunity to help fellow Tasmanians without being out of pocket to a major amount of money.”
The $1.6 million pilot program will run from next month until June next year and will be reviewed in March.
Hobart currently has a rental vacancy rate of just 0.3 per cent — so if there were 1,000 rental properties on the market, only three would be available.
Airbnb operators not convinced scheme will help
The impact of short-stay accommodation, such as Airbnb, on the private rental market is not fully understood but welfare groups, including the Tenants’ Union, have said it has contributed to the present shortage.
Chris McGregor with the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania is not sold on whether the incentive will be enough to turn Airbnb hosts into long-term landlords.
“If this works then it’s great and if it’s not, we’ll work around that and get the test with this pilot project and we can do something different,” Mr McGregor said.
Jill Saunders, who runs an Airbnb in Lindisfarne, said the Government’s new pilot scheme was unlikely to encourage Airbnb hosts to move into the long-term rental market.
“I don’t think it will be any incentive at all because people do not necessarily want long-term renters in their home or able to accommodate them in any way.”
Labor labels scheme dumb
Labor MLC Josh Willie said the financial incentive scheme is “dumb” and will not address supply problems.
“The new Minister has panicked, and he is throwing money at the demand side of this issue,” he said.
The Government has previously ruled out restrictions on Airbnb and Stayz.
The new Minister seemed to leave the door open to Airbnb regulation on Tuesday.
“We need to understand under our new circumstances, what role it is playing in our housing market and we will look at any information we can get on that before making any further decisions.”
But it appears he was pulled into line, later issuing a statement saying the Government was not considering changes to the Airbnb regulatory framework.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said Airbnb is having an impact on availability and affordability.
“I think there’s an inevitability to some sort of regulation around short-stay accommodation, because at the moment it’s a free-for-all,” Ms O’Connor said.
“There’s calls from across the sector and in the community for government to put some of the brakes on short-stay accommodation, without crushing the industry.”