Convert old blocks into hostels to meet demand for short-term leases

The incident of the New Zealand family being denied access to their Airbnb rental raises the question of why short-term listings for Singapore apartments remain available for booking on the website despite it being illegal (Illegal Airbnb, short-term rentals pit condo management against errant owners; ST Online, March 16).

Broadly speaking, I believe that travel lodgings and residences do not and should not mix.

Permanent and short-term occupants have differing needs.

In the absence of stringent business standards applied to licensed hotels or authorised long-term rentals, travellers may be exposed to greater personal risk when utilising illicit homestays. Residents may also have reservations about transient strangers.

But can there be a compromise?

The demand for cheap, no-frills lodging for travellers is a missed opportunity for local entrepreneurs. Building a "new type of private home" would perhaps be a disproportionate and costly response.

A possible solution is to convert entire blocks of older high-rise flats into licensed hostels with basic furnishings.

This business model offers all the locational and cost advantages of a traditional Airbnb while providing sufficient physical separation from actual residences, allowing for easy enforcement of commerce and security standards.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2018, with the headline 'Convert old blocks into hostels to meet demand for short-term leases'. Print Edition | Subscribe