Holiday home owners refuse plea to rent out vacant properties, say housing crisis not their fault
Holiday home owners in Western Australia's biggest food and wine region have refused pleas to rent out their vacant properties and say they are being treated as scapegoats for the nationwide housing crisis.
The Mayor of South West tourist town Busselton, Grant Henley, is set to write to the owners of hundreds of private holiday homes to ask them to rent the properties to desperate locals.
There are 35 long-term rental properties listed online for Busselton and Dunsborough compared to 167 short-stay properties, such as Airbnb.
Mr Henley said he was acting out of desperation.
"I'm putting a plea out to those property owners if they're not using those properties to really consider putting them into the long-term market," he said.
Mr Henley said similar measures had been taken "in desperation" by authorities on the east coast, with some success.
"The Eurobodalla Council on the South Coast in New South Wales sent out 1,000 letters to Canberra and Sydney property owners and managed to get 40 or 50 properties back into the rental market out of that," he said.
"So it's better than nothing."
Holiday home owners responded angrily to the Mr Henley's plea.
Davinia Gillard manages 80 holiday properties, many in Busselton and Dunsborough.
"They're using these people as a scapegoat to take focus off the real issues — the lack of government housing, and a shortage of building supplies and tradesmen," she said.
"It should go back to the government and why aren't they building more government housing?"
Ms Gillard said she had discussed with property owners whether they would consider long-term leases.
"They are quite clear on it that they wouldn't rent out their house long-term because it's their home that they use on a regular basis," she said.
"When they're not using it, they rent it out to holiday-makers to make the extra income."
In the midst of a housing crisis, the latest census data reveals there are more than one million vacant homes across the country.
Talkback caller Graham told ABC radio that he owned a holiday house in Dunsborough and that the real issue was the shortage of public housing.
"The government has been lax on public housing, going back decades," he said.
"I mean it's their responsibility.
"There's a certain proportion of the population that can't afford to buy houses and isn't that the government's responsibility? I'm not sure that it's mine."
Earlier this year Busselton introduced some of Australia's toughest regulations for short-stay rental properties.
The local laws imposed a night curfew on the number of guests past 10:00pm, required property managers to respond to complaints within 12 hours and included a ban on dogs being left alone at properties.
Operators who do not comply with the new regulations face the threat of being deregistered.
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