Home sharing just a variation of hotel industry

I don't see how restricting short-term rentals to real estate developments built for this purpose risks turning them into another motel or hostel ("Home sharing still up in the Airbnb"; last Thursday, and "Regulated homestays offer valuable experience" by Mr Francis Zhan; last Friday).

The causal link between "home sharing" and tourism growth and cultural exchanges is tenuous at best, especially in a city with an ample supply of quality hotels and serviced apartments, like Singapore.

In essence, home sharing is no more than a variation of hotels targeted at tourists.

Is it not more sensible for regulators to govern this business under the hospitality sector, impose a quality standard on all licensees, and uphold Singapore's reputation as a tourist destination?

Rather than rehash the spiel of share-economy advocates, we should ask to what extent Singapore may nurture this diverse growth sector by taking a holistic view of costs and benefits, as well as the fact that we live in one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Is it not more sensible for regulators to govern this business under the hospitality sector, impose a quality standard on all licensees, and uphold Singapore's reputation as a tourist destination ?

I hope that those who embrace home sharing as " progressive" will understand that while people like me welcome tourists to our shores, we are also turned off by the possibility of having hordes of them in our private estates, along with the damage to shared facilities that many are capable of inflicting.

The cavalier response by short-term rental websites and their associates to these possibilities does not inspire confidence.

Property owners who treat their residences as a home should not be made to subsidise activities by those who treat their asset as a hotel.

Having developments built for this purpose will make for fairer legislation and more effective regulation, as well as inject an innovative product into our commercial real estate sector.

Meanwhile, I urge the Urban Redevelopment Authority to step up its enforcement action against the growing number of property owners who contravene our housing laws by listing their assets on websites such as Airbnb.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Home sharing just a variation of hotel industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe