With recent bush fires ravaging the country there has been an unprecedented amount of housing loss.

People from regional towns to built up urban areas have all fallen victim to the fires and many lost their homes and all their worldly possessions in one foul swoop over the 2019/2020 holiday period.

This has left many family’s without permeant accommodation and a lot of displacement. With some families and homes still being impacted.

Some of these locations impacted already had very tight rental markets and the heightened demand for rental accommodation will put further strain on rental accommodation options, and very likely increase rental prices, according to Suburbanite’s Anna Porter.

Porter believes to add further insult to injury, many of the locations that have been hit the hardest are regional and coastal towns that only have a small amount of rental stock available in the first place so this will result in many families having to look outside of their community to find mid to long term housing options. Potentially having to move away from their children’s’ schools, their work and family.

So is there a solution that could ease the burden on families and free up the rental market in some of the hardest hit areas? Anna Porter of Suburbanite has suggested that AirBnB could be the solution to this problem; “the locations that have been the most devastated are areas that often have a high level of Air BnB and other short term rental options,” says Porter.

“The south coast of NSW for example and many of the country areas surrounding it are peppered with good quality Air BnB accommodation,”

“Many of the air BnB hosts have already felt the pinch of losing their holiday income over this period, with some agents in the area saying they have seen a decline by as much as 25% in holiday rental enquiry and bookings over the past few months in the surrounding areas that have not even been directly impacted by the fires.”

So whilst many tourists are flocking to the areas to help boost local spending, and this is no doubt a great initiative, there is also some consideration to give to repurposing some of the Air Bnb accommodation to longer term rentals for the next 12-18 months to free up rental options for families that are rebuilding, and also allow them to stay within their local community.

“The challenge will be that the Air BnB hosts need to make the decision to flip the property from short term stays to a permanent rental, which attracts a different style of revenue,” says Porter.

“But also do this for a price that is inline with market rents and not an inflated short term rental cost,”

“Many may be reluctant to do this as they will lose some of their premium rental income during the peak seasons, but we area already seeing some of the generosity coming from some of the Air Bnb hosts who are helping accommodate displaced families at a fraction of the cost.”

According to Porter, some of the initiatives the Government and Air BNB HQ could implement to help hosts find a viable way to offer their short term rental to the market as a mid or long term rental solution includes;

  • Air BnB could reduce their fees to the hosts to allow them to drop rates in bush fire affected areas for a period, so long as the saving is passed on and only to families that have been impacted by the fires. So this would require a screening process
  • Government grants to any Air BnB owners that house bush fire affected families to help them bridge the gap between their holiday rental income and a discounted rental for locals
  • Tax breaks for AirBnB hosts that offer their properties to fire affected families at this time at a discounted rate

She concludes, “whilst the fires are not the responsibility of AirBnB hosts, and they too have mortgages to pay and costs to cover, there certainly is an untapped resource here that could become part of the solution if managed in a way that no one loses out.”