He said the council had no power to compel property owners, but he hoped the letters, which will go out in the coming weeks, would be appropriate to their sense of community obligation.
The problem is particularly acute on the Bass Coast, which includes Phillip Island, where there are more than 10,000 vacant properties on census night, representing just over 39 percent of the total.
There is plenty of housing in the municipality, but many people have either rented homes on short-stay sites or have left them completely vacant, said Bas Coast Shire CEO Ali Al-Wasiti.
She also hoped the letters would encourage non-resident property owners in the county to act for the benefit of the local community.
“They may not realize that companies cannot hire employees because there is no housing for them to live in,” she said.
Bas Coast lineage payers are expected to receive letters next week. The letters will ask property owners to put their homes on the rental market for a period of 12 to 24 months.
“There are many reasons why homes remain vacant, including the shift from permanent to short-term rentals, but this potential under-use offers a housing opportunity,” the letter says. “Our societies will not prosper unless they can maintain a permanent population.”
Ann-Marie Casser, CEO of Gippsland Lakes Complete Health, moved to Lakes Entrance last year and is struggling to find rental property.
“Here I am a professional woman, good income, great history,” she says. “I couldn’t even look at it.”
Three months later, she finds a house to rent through a colleague, but that agreement expires in December and Kasser is afraid of having to find another place to live.
At Inlet Lakes and its surroundings, approximately 24 percent of private residences were unoccupied on census night, which equates to approximately 1,450 properties.
Kaser said her service desperately needs more allied health professionals and general practitioners. But she said many times, great candidates couldn’t take the jobs because they couldn’t find a place to live.
She said other regional health services had reported similar problems.
Many of the businesses along the Entrance Lakes main corridor are understaffed and some have notices plastered to their windows looking for workers.
Matt O’Donnell, who owns the coffee shop, conference center and restaurant business Albert & Co, said it was short of about 15 workers.
O’Donnell reduced hours due to staff shortages. He has advertised employees in Melbourne and the Highway – and has even considered finding housing for the workers himself.
“But there’s nowhere here we can do that,” he said.
Jackie McCins, manager of the local hair salon, said she could easily hire other hairstylists but could not find staff.
She said, “I don’t know why.”
McInnes said the city remained popular with tourists, but businesses could not meet the demand.
“On Christmas when the town is full, these businesses close at seven at night.”
Tourism industry groups have asked the state government to follow other states’ lead and limit the number of days owners can rent their properties in short-stay locations, in an effort to encourage more long-term rentals.
The state government has confirmed that it will review the short-term residence laws and investigate whether the regulations need further modification.
Rachel Newman, principal of Elders Lakes International School, said her real estate agency received at least twice a day, in addition to phone calls with people looking for rental properties.
Newman said homes that became available were quickly snapped up and rents typically started at $380 a week.
The latest industry data revealed that rents have risen by as much as 20 per cent in some regional cities over the past year.
Census figures showed that 36.2 percent of Lex International’s renters were making rental payments in excess of 30 percent of their household income, exposing them to rent stress.
Newman has worked in local real estate for nine years and said the market for relatively affordable rentals has vanished as “desperate” buyers pounce on properties during the depths of the lockdown.
“We are now seeing people who have bought vacation homes less than 12 months later are not using them,” she said. “A lot of them are vacant.”
This week, Susan Weldon, Airbnb’s director of Australia and New Zealand, said the company wanted to grow the “tourism pie” for everyone by making travel easier, arguing that additional tourists meant more money for companies that would help them hire local workers.
“Short-term rentals also provide a way for ordinary people to stay afloat and combat the rising cost of living and increasing mortgage payments,” she said.
Surf Coast Shire has asked the state government to introduce a statewide scheme to provide incentives for homeowners and second vacation homes to rent out their homes to long-term tenants.
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