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Don't ignore disruptive force of home-sharing

The outcome of any decision to allow short-term rentals at private condominiums will be a one-size-fits-all approach, whether or not this hurdle is passed with a minimum 80 per cent vote or a unanimous one (URA right to let residents decide on home-sharing, by Mr Yew Chii Ming; April 26).

The former situation does not benefit the minority, who must either live with the consequences of home-sharing at their estate against their wishes, or sell their property and move out.

This is why I suggested that the 80 per cent minimum rule should apply only to condos that are to be sold en bloc for the purposes of conversion into developments that cater to short-term rentals (Condos should get 100% consent on home-sharing; April 18).

In short, the bone of contention is not about whether private residential estates should be given more autonomy to manage their estates as they already have much leeway to pass their own by-laws so long as these do not contravene the Urban Redevelopment Authority's regulations for residential property use. Rather, it is about the wilful attitude of home-sharing proponents towards its disruptive force on our residential property market - including the long-term leasing segment - as well as the hospitality industry.

A fair, equitable, inclusive and transparent framework of rules, regulations and accountability on its key players, like Airbnb, can be designed and managed only from a holistic understanding of market behaviour.

It would be useful to remember that home-sharing does not simply comprise the romantic ideal of hosting people from all over the world. It is also merely a money-making activity for most - going by the number of empty units being listed for lease on short-term rental sites - that can adversely affect the lives of non-participants on the same premises.

As with any business, there is a continuum of costs, both material and non-material, on all involved.

Is it fair to impose all these on those who treat their house as a home and not a hotel?

To say that condos have a case for being considered for short-term rentals because they fall between the categories of public housing and landed housing is to miss the wood for the trees, especially when some developments in prime districts command a far higher premium than most landed properties across our little island.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 06, 2018, with the headline 'Don't ignore disruptive force of home-sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe