- Louise Elliot
If we cannot accommodate them – the events or the visitors – they will disappear or go elsewhere
It’s exciting to see Hobart bursting at the seams with activity during Dark MOFO. Events like this are a core part of our creative state’s identity and generate the economic activity, jobs, inspiration and pride that our city needs. Events of this scale and calibre are only possible if we can meet all the needs of the events and the visitors who come to enjoy them. Among the calls for more and bigger venues, we also need to ensure visitors have somewhere to stay, with a range of accommodation options available to them and the capacity to welcome them. Hobart needs to be flexible and strategic in how it supports our events and tourism sector, with arts, sporting, science and other events being a key drawcard for thousands of visitors each year. If we cannot accommodate them – the events or the visitors – they will disappear or go elsewhere. The Hobart City Council’s attempt to prohibit the issuing of any further short-stay permits is a reactive shot in the foot that has the potential to damage the viability of these iconic events and hurt our economy and employment. It's a flawed policy that ignores the many benefits of short-stay, which include spreading the benefits of tourism beyond the large CBD hotels, creating local trade and enabling visitors to spent more time and money in the smaller communities of our state. Short-stay accommodation typically provides a home-like experience, which is ideal for families, generations travelling together and people with sensory concerns. The Hobart City Council's desire to cap short-stay is also capping future opportunity. A blanket ban is a lazy approach and a very blunt tool. As existing short-stay properties leave the market - which they inevitably will as owners' situations change - it means that there is no possibility of this homestyle accommodation being replaced. Some people are happy to take a room in a strangers house, while many others are not and want the safety and privacy of their own space. If the ban is passed by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, we could easily find ourselves in a situation where our short-stay offering is so small that prices are sky high and people simply can't find somewhere to stay. A smarter approach would be to consider density limits and removing the ability for foreign owners to access a short-stay permit. No one wants to see faceless entities buying up our streets. These options retain the flexibility needed to ensure that this accommodation type is available, but managed. Sadly, strategic and considered approaches are off the table, probably because they don’t have the same vote grab ability in an election year. Short-stay has been blamed for our state’s housing crisis. Anyone with a memory longer than a goldfish knows that short-stay's contribution is a drop in the ocean. Where we are today is the compounding outcome of decades of all state governments failing to build public housing and pushing those on the lowest incomes in our community into the private rental market. Short-stay has contributed to the complex housing affordability problem, but it is certainly not the major or sole factor. Hobart needs smart policy. We need a Council that looks at issues holistically, objectively and understands the important role they play in addressing housing affordability by supporting supply. Even with the constant calls for new homes, the Hobart City Council often struggles for unanimous votes on desperately needed homes of any decent quantity, often begging for reasons to vote against planning applications even though they comply with the planning scheme and have been recommended by planning experts for approval. This uncertainty deters the development of new homes and when you factor in rising costs and an endless list of box to tick, it's all just too hard. Short-stay accommodation, such as Airbnb, has enabled visitors to enjoy our city and the Dark MOFO experience, which is a great thing for Hobart and Tasmania. Not only that, it’s great visitors are supporting local businesses and supporting local jobs. This is about creating a diverse and vibrant community for everyone. That’s what I want for Hobart.