This whole town has become one big Airbnb

By: Shilo Kino

Summer is coming and hot spots like Mount Maunganui are preparing for the annual influx of visitors.

But it is not good news for everyone.

One couple said they were being pushed out of their own town and blamed Airbnb for the lack of rental accommodation.

A couple in their mid-30s, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were being “forced” out of their Mount Maunganui rental so their landlords could turn it into an Airbnb for the summer. They were also asked to leave another rental only a few months earlier, because of Airbnb.

“This whole town has become one big Airbnb,” she said.

“If you search for Mount Maunganui on Airbnb … you can see that there is nearly no street left without an Airbnb listed. From a homeowner’s perspective, I can understand the appeal of making a load of money over a few months. But as a renter, there are very few places left for us to go.

“For a small town like the Mount, you are flooding people in for three months, but if you’ve just pushed out half your town to other suburbs, where do you think the money goes for the town’s economy the rest of those nine months?”

There are 1600 active Airbnb listings in Tauranga but the typical Airbnb in the region is booked for only 24 nights a year. That means there is less long-term rental accommodation available in Tauranga.

Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said three years ago there were around 700 rentals available in the region. Now there were just over 200.

“Owners used to ring us up and ask us to find tenants for the holiday period and now we don’t get anyone ringing us up because they just do it themselves. Five per cent of our revenue is gone now,” Lusby said.

“And we get landlords calling us and saying they want to take the rentals back so they can use them or their family can use them over the holiday period … and then we see the rental on Airbnb.”

A shortage of long-term accommodation is a problem occurring in other parts of the country.

Auckland Council recently implemented the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate, where Airbnb hosts renting out self-contained units must pay a commercial rate. The amount they pay depends on how many nights per year a place is being let out for.

In Queenstown, Mayor Jim Boult has repeatedly pushed for an accommodation tax or “bed tax” due to the shortage of long-term accommodation available for workers and residents.

Tauranga Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout said Tauranga City Council was looking seriously into a bed tax to regulate Airbnb rentals.

“There has been a huge influx of people into the region … Tauranga is now the fifth-biggest city in the country so there are issues with supply and demand. Airbnb is clearly taking away some of the supply going into the normal rental market, so that’s a big concern for us as a council.”

But Airbnb host Mary Florence said any additional tax was “ridiculous” and she would rather sell her home than have long-term tenants.

“We are already paying huge rates because we live here,” she says.

“A lot of people will stop doing Airbnb if there’s a tax and we will have to increase prices for people to stay.”

Florence and her husband own two apartments in Mount Maunganui, one of which they rent out on Airbnb.

She decided to let out her property on Airbnb three years ago after long-term tenants repeatedly broke rules such as bringing animals into the apartment.

Visitors paid around $100 a night during the winter months, but in summer, that rose to well over $200 a night. She was booked out for the next three months.

“I think there’s a lack of holiday accommodation here and we are providing that. Airbnb is great for the economy,” she said.

“If we had long-term tenants it would be $800 a week in the summer, and two couples would be living here in the tiny apartment to pay for it, there would be a lot of wear and tear.

“With Airbnb, they’re here for a short time, they’re on holiday, they’re clean, tidy … They come here to basically just sleep.”

Airbnb’s Sydney-based public affairs manager for New Zealand and Australia, Julian Crowley, said he disagreed Airbnb was affecting the rental market in the region.

“Airbnb represents roughly three per cent of the housing market in Tauranga and there are close to three times as many empty homes as there are Airbnb listings,” he said.

“The big factors influencing housing remain the planning system and population growth.”

Airbnb also supported a bed tax in the Tauranga region. Crowley says it was a “fair and proven” system around the world.

“A bed tax is simply a percentage fee of total accommodation charges. If an Airbnb listing or hotel room costs $100 a night, a bed tax of 5 per cent would mean the guest pays an extra $5.

“Evidence and experiences show tourism taxes work. We have partnered with more than 500 jurisdictions worldwide and raised more than US$500M in revenue.”