The state budget presents an opportunity to make more homes available for renters by regulating short stays like Airbnb. Tim Read, Greens MP for Brunswick, has recently published a compelling proposal titled Homes, Not Hotels, sparking significant discussion about innovative approaches to addressing the housing crisis.

As a prominent advocate for sustainable housing solutions, Read proposes a shift from temporary accommodations to permanent affordable homes. In interview with The Wire, Read elaborated on his vision, emphasising the importance of community focused development and long-term solutions over short term fixes. His insights shed light on the urgent need for policy reform and strategic investment in housing infrastructure.

Vanessa Gatica: What are the main challenges you foresee in implementing the shift from temporary accommodations to permanent housing?

Tim Read MP: We like the idea of pushing short stay housing like Airbnbs onto the long-term rental market because these are homes that have already been built. We have a rental crisis, we have a homelessness crisis, and a lot of these homes sit empty for weeks on end and just occasionally have visitors staying in them. The challenge is, how do we do this in a way that doesn’t? Create some kind of unfairness. And I think that a cap on the number of days per year that you can have your empty home on Airbnb is the best way to do it. In fact, it’s quite commonly used in other parts of the world.

Vanessa Gatica: How do you envision the implementation of a 90-day cap on short stay accommodations, affecting the availability of long-term rental properties in urban areas?

Tim Read MP: There are nearly 50,000 homes on platforms like Airbnb and other short stay platforms. If we impose a 90-day cap like some other cities do, a lot of those people will say: ”Well, actually, I want this property to be available for rent for much longer, for more than 90 days. And so, they’ll put it onto the long-term rental market, they’ll advertise it for rent for 12 months or whatever. We don’t know how many will do that, but we do have an estimate from the parliamentary Budget Office that something like a third of properties would go on to the long-term rental market. And so, we think it would be a substantial number. The other important thing is that we don’t plan this to apply, for example, if you just want to put 1 or 2 bedrooms of your house, but you’re still living in your house, if you want to put 1 or 2 bedrooms on Airbnb, that’s fine. The 90-day cap would not apply. Also, 90 days means you’ve got enough time on to use the Airbnb market. For example, if you’re going overseas for three months or something, you can put your place on Airbnb then, but not for 12 months.

Vanessa Gatica: What policy changes do you believe are essential for facilitating the development of affordable permanent homes?

Tim Read MP:  This policy, which I said would put maybe a third, but we would estimate that it might put somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 homes onto the long-term rental market. But that’s not enough. So, we need to also build public housing, government owned, government run public housing for the poorest, most vulnerable Victorians. We have a public housing waiting list of over 120,000 people, and this is something the state government has been walking away from, and we’re encouraging them to accept responsibility for this task, like previous governments have done, and build up our public housing stock to the levels we had several decades ago. We also need more private housing built, but our focus is particularly on housing the poorest and most vulnerable Victorians, and that requires public housing.

Vanessa Gatica: What role do you see community involvement playing in the success of this housing initiative?

Tim Read MP: I think that there’s a lot the community can do by contacting the government and local MPs and demanding that the government step up and build and maintain public housing and take responsibility for it, rather than outsourcing it to NGOs, to community housing providers. And there’s definitely a place for community housing. We like community housing, but there’s also a real need for public housing. And so, I think the role for community members is to talk to your local MP about why it’s important to you that they take firm action to build more housing to help this current rental availability crisis.

Vanessa Gatica: I am Vanessa Gatica from The Wire speaking with Tim Read, Greens MP for Brunswick