Private rentals such as Airbnbs are proving big money spinners for locals. New figures have shown just how much they make and how often they are rented out. It has sparked fresh debate about whether Airbnbs have taken away homes from the rental pool and contributed to our housing crisis, as well as whether they should be charged similar commercial fees like other accommodation providers, such as motels and hotels. Reporter Zoe Hunter looks into the issue and chats to an Airbnb provider about why and how she manages her small business.
Rotorua residents raked in $32.8 million renting out their properties on sites such as Airbnb in the 11 months to May 2019, new data shows.
But local business leaders are blaming such sites for taking homes away from the rental market and say they should be charged the same as traditional accommodation providers.
AirDna, which collects data for both Airbnb and HomeAway, shows there are 921 active entire homes and 280 private rooms listed for rent on Airbnb and HomeAway/Stayz in Rotorua. Of those listings, 747 entire homes are booked.
The total revenue before cleaning, maintenance, tax and furnishing costs made by Rotorua hosts was $32.8m from June 2018 to May 2019.
Airbnb says listings are a small part of the housing market and make a big contribution to the local economy.
But Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said short-term listings on Airbnb meant there were more than 1000 homes or rooms that families cannot rent full time.
"This marked drop in houses for rent has pushed up family rents markedly and driven many people out of their homes," he said.
Sciascia said landlords were now capitalising on the financial advantage by removing their houses from the traditional rental pool to the short-term Airbnb market, which should be treated as a business.
"They are only charged domestic rates and are not charged the commercial fees that traditional accommodation providers such as motels and hotels are forced to pay," he said.
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Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said a holiday rental property is rated as a business if it is rented for 100 days of the year or more and the council relied on self-reporting and members of the public and council staff to identify where that was the case.
Chadwick said accurately identifying holiday rental problems was a challenge and the council was "working towards a more proactive system of monitoring and enforcement".
"Short-term holiday rentals have always been a popular accommodation option in Rotorua, particularly at the lakes, but in recent years the rise in short-term holiday rentals in urban areas has put additional pressure on housing and poses a challenge in terms of rating, monitoring and enforcement," she said.
"We have had discussions with members of our accommodation sector and they understand the complexities involved and that this will take time to work through.
"Rating isn't the only consideration for councils, there's also the potential social impact that holiday rentals can have in terms of noise, parking and having large numbers of people in holiday homes in a neighbourhood. Those are issues our council has faced in recent years and addressed."
Nigel Tutt, chief executive of Tauranga's economic development organisation Priority One, said measures such as charging a business rate needed to be put in place to help mitigate the significant effect Airbnb was having on the rental market.
"While it's a great product and a benefit to those owning homes, the potentially negative social consequences can't be ignored," he said.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Bryce Heard said the number of Airbnb listings seemed high and there was a demand for hotels in the area.
But he had not heard any complaint from members about listings taking away from the city's rental market.
Heard said Airbnb had its place in the market.
"A lot of travellers like to mix with the people and become part of the culture," he said. "It is a style of holiday, a personal preference not just price."
Bayleys and Eves Realty chief operating officer Heath Young said Airbnb helped address the shortfall of motels, hotels and short-term accommodation for visitors to the region.
An AirDna spokeswoman said depending on demand, many listings sat idly without accepting a booking, and therefore could not be compared with long-term rentals.
For example, 53 per cent of entire homes in Rotorua were rented out for less than 90 days from June 2018 to May 2019.
The spokeswoman said although many local authorities were concerned about the growth of holiday homes, the numbers cited were almost always inflated.
"This rise in demand for vacation homes in the area suggests that hotels are lagging in providing accommodation to travellers visiting the area, and platforms like Airbnb are filling this gap."
An Airbnb spokesman said listings booked for more than six months of the year represented just 0.11 per cent of the housing market.
"Put simply, holding a tenth of 1 per cent of the housing market isn't credible and more seriously distracts from the bigger issues."
* The numbers of Airbnb listings are for both Airbnb and HomeAway sites and could be duplicated. * Entire home listings include any self-contained space from a small flat to a person's home they are sharing while away, or a room in a boutique hotel or bed and breakfast.
Nilamani Wright has rented a private room in her Rotorua home since Boxing Day last year.
Wright travels a lot for her job as a full-time sales representative and has stayed in many hotels and other Airbnbs.
On her travels, Wright noted there was a market for a more holistic approach to accommodating people so she started her own Airbnb.
"I wanted to create an organic, holistic bed and breakfast in my home. There are conscious travellers out there and this is something a little bit special, luxurious and affordable," she said.
During the summer, Wright accommodated people for an average of 15 nights and as many as six nights during winter.
"This just props up my income," she said.
Rotorua's Airbnb and HomeAway/Stayz listings
- 921 active entire homes
- 747 entire homes booked
- 280 private rooms