Airbnb supports tourism taxes. We’ve worked with many cities around the world to make visitor levies work, remitting over AUD$10-billion in taxes globally – a vital source of funding for local governments that is supporting local communities, critical infrastructure and housing projects.
The Victorian Government has listened, but its proposal differs from ours in two important ways. Firstly and most critically, the levy will apply only to short-term rental accommodation, creating an uneven playing field that puts everyday Victorians who share their home behind large corporate hotel chains.
Secondly, they have arrived at a levy of 7.5 percent, which is too high and will slug travellers’ hip pockets when they can least afford it. A contribution of 3 to 5 percent across all accommodation providers will raise more, but cost travellers less.
A tax that unfairly benefits the hotel industry over everyday Victorians is not the right approach. The government’s proposal is not without merit though – it acknowledges the valuable contribution platforms like Airbnb make to attracting guests and growing the economy, and sensibly avoids harsh measures like restrictions on the number of nights people can share their homes.
Our Hosts are real people, who love their communities, support jobs, and direct guests to local businesses during their stays, but who are also struggling with the cost of living. They also provide a service that people absolutely love, with more than one million people staying in an Airbnb globally every night.
It’s about getting the balance right. Short-term rentals aren’t the cause of the housing crisis, but we believe there is more we can do to help make a positive difference like advocating for policies that promote the creation of new housing.
Housing affordability and supply is complicated. We need to build more homes, and both the Victorian and federal governments are doing just that. We need to build more affordable and public housing. We need to protect renters, and we need to fill the one million empty homes around Australia and the 300,000 homes in Victoria with families who need housing now. According to the ABS, over 11 percent of homes in Victoria are currently sitting empty.
Short-term rentals in Victoria make up less than one percent of total housing stock. Acute housing issues existed long before the founding of Airbnb, and targeting these properties is not a long term solution.
No one wants to see Victoria’s appeal as a tourism destination be diminished by higher travel costs, but this proposal stops short of generating more funds for the community by not applying it to hotels as well. Levies are clever as they make the community shareholders in tourism, so let’s grow the pie for everyone instead of giving some a bigger slice.
Susan Wheeldon is the Country Manager of Airbnb in Australia and New Zealand.