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Airbnb says rental regulation welcome

AAP logoAAP 13/12/2016 Lilly Vitorovich

Airbnb's global policy boss says increased regulation of Australia's short-term rental industry would benefit the house-sharing website and help grow its business in the "incredibly valuable" local market.

Airbnb and similar online rental businesses have become controversial in popular CBD and tourist centres as angry residents complain of noise and interruptions from short-term stays.

Some councils have rules which allow home owners to lease properties for short-term stays, while others forbid it or have no rules at all.

However Chris Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs at Airbnb, said there were not many party houses on the site and the vast majority of users behaved themselves.

Regulation of the local industry is important for its growth prospects, he said.

"You can create a regulatory approach that really encourages, and has a light touch, for those that are doing this out of the homes that they are living in, so they are not necessarily impacting the long term housing market," he said.

Mr Lehane said Airbnb would be willing to adopt regulations that have been put in place in other cities, such as a cap on the supply of investment properties used on its platform.

"Individual states have been really open in trying to figure out what the right partnership approach is," he said, noting some positive signs had recently emerged in NSW.

San-Franciso-based Airbnb recently released a list of policy recommendations to help government officials decide how to regulate short-term rentals, Mr Lehane said.

Of the 87,000 Australian home listings on Airbnb at present, about 80 per cent of them are owner-occupied residences.

That is on track to hit 100,000 shortly after the new year, he said.

Around 3.5 million adults in Australia have an Airbnb account.

In October, an 18-month NSW parliamentary inquiry found that all home owners across NSW should be allowed to use online house-sharing websites to let out rooms without fear of being fined.

The inquiry recommended short-term accommodation sharing be allowed, with the findings also calling on a single set of rules to regulate the industry.

It also made several recommendations against banning short-term letting by strata or apartments.

The NSW government is scheduled to respond to the inquiry in April.

Australia is the fifth most popular city to visit among Airbnb customers this year, up three-fold from 2015.

"Its an incredibly valuable and important market for us," said Mr Lehane, who is in Sydney for work and a family holiday.

On average, an Australian host will make $4,700 a year renting their home out, he said.

Airbnb - which recently introduced a new travel booking platform - plans to launch its new local-led Trips service, which will include guided excursions and experiences, next year in Australia, Mr Lehane said.

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