Mercury editor Matt Deighton and Institute for the Study of Social Change director Richard Eccleston say last night’s public forum on the sharing economy will be followed by a series of other partnership events focused on the future of Hobart.
The Institute for the Study of Social Change partnered with the Mercury to host the forum, titled Sharing Hobart: managing the rise of Airbnb.
It was a full house in the Stanley Burbury Theatre, with 350 people attending for what was a lively, interactive debate about the impact of the rapid rise of Airbnb properties in Tasmania on tourism, neighbourhood character and renters.
The forum panel featured affordable housing researcher Professor Peter Phibbs, tourism researcher Dr Anne Hardy, Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin and Airbnb spokesman Huw Phillips.
Professor Phibbs said Hobart would make a wonderful “laboratory” for measuring the impact of Airbnb and other sharing platforms on the rental market and housing affordability. He said the majority of Airbnb properties were owned by investors and did not fit into the traditional “sharing economy” model of someone renting out their spare room.
Mr Martin agreed, saying Airbnb should be called “what it is – an aggressive expansion of the (accommodation) market”.
There was a passionate response to the panel discussion from audience members and stakeholders, including Airbnb operators, traditional accommodation operators, real estate agents and concerned locals.
Lord Mayor of Hobart Sue Hickey said Hobart could never have catered for demand during its key festivals without Airbnb. However, Alderman Hickey noted many people including students were struggling to find long term rentals in Hobart. She suggested State Government incentives were needed to build more housing.
One audience member expressed concerns that the proliferation of Airbnb properties would lead to “ghost suburbs”.
Mr Phillips, who is a public affairs associate with Airbnb, argued that it was in the company’s interest to maintain local character, as that was what Airbnb clients were seeking.
Dr Hardy agreed, saying most Airbnb users were sick of “generic hotels”.
Join our mailing list to be kept up to date on upcoming events, including forums on the future of Hobart.