The Victorian government is expected to follow with a similar scheme to that of NSW’s Bushfire Housing Assistance Service.
Bega MP and the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance tweeted; “We need rentals to help support families who have lost everything in the bushfires and need a place to stay.”
In a video posted to the platform he explained the importance of the assistance scheme.
“It provides a homeless family with a roof over their heads for the next few months as they get sorted and are able to rebuild on their blocks,” he said.
“Get on the phone to your local real estate agent where you own a property, the department can assist with rental bonds, rental assistance so there’s something in this for everyone. But most importantly a home for people who have lost everything.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service said 2162 homes had been lost this fire season, with more than 1200 destroyed since New Year’s Day. Hundreds more have suffered significant damage.
In Victoria the estimated toll stands at around 300 homes lost, more than 50 in South Australia and in Western Australia and Queensland several properties have been destroyed this fire season.
Nerida Conisbee explains property price cycles
Nerida Conisbee explains property price cycles
Highs and lows of holiday season
Calling for owners of holiday homes to open their doors in return for a government hand out is good in theory, however considering January is high season many owners’ properties are already fully booked.
Craig McIntosh, managing director of The Holidays Collection and South Coast Holidays, which manages short term rentals surrounding the fire affected regions, said despite more than 150 cancellations and date changes in recent weeks, business is largely back on track.
“The cancellations started in the Christmas week because the first closure of the Princes Highway was on the 23rd of December. But by January 10 the RFS put out a press release to say tourists were able to come back to the South Coast, that it’s safe, and they don’t mind having tourists on the road again,” he explained.
“Now we feel that the owners would expect us to tell visitors they will need to honour their bookings. There is a bit of work to be done to let people know that things are, in many places, back to normal again.”
Mr McIntosh said many holiday homes aren’t just for owners to enjoy a little down time – and otherwise left empty – but many properties are legitimate businesses run by people who rely on the income.
“Some of our owners are nurses and teachers who have worked hard and saved well to buy an investment property that happens to be by the beach. Often these homes are part of their superannuation and the capital gains they will make when they sell is just as important to them as the income they make on them. You can’t assume that everyone who owns a beach house is in a very privileged position,” he said.
Short term rentals in the long term
Chris Gray, buyer’s agent and host of Your Property Empire on Sky News Business, said he decided to pack up his family for a mini break and support Bannisters by the Sea after hearing that the accommodation provider filled empty rooms with locals who were homeless.
“I’m happy paying full price for the rooms to put money into the local area that gets paid forward by those businesses helping other locals,” he said.
But when it comes to the big picture, Mr Gray said short and long term rentals will feel the pressure.
“If a local area has been destroyed by the fires, many of the locals will still want to stay to help rebuild their homes and will need somewhere to live,” he explained.
He added that in addition to the locals who need accommodation solutions, tradespeople (and their families) coming into these towns will also need somewhere to stay.
“Many renters may want to take a long-term lease, instead of a short term one, which could reduce demand [on holiday homes] but if there’s no choice they may have to take short term ones which would increase demand,” he said.
Mr Gray said the bushfire accommodation effect could even spread to regions that were not directly touched but the disaster.
“Safe, non-affected areas could well see increased demand as holiday-makers are forced to cancel pre-booked trips to affected areas and re-book elsewhere. But if @spendwiththem @emptyesky gets more traction, it could reduce demand from the safe areas as people choose to support the affected areas.”
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