While public figures have welcomed the State Government’s $10,000 cash incentive for Airbnb owners to list their homes on the rental market, behind the scenes people are shaking their heads at the lacklustre ongoing response to WA’s housing crisis. With the Capes region one of the State’s hotspots for short-stay accommodation — and at the same time grappling with a severe shortfall of rentals affecting not just residents, but employers trying to recruit staff – the one-off cash offer was viewed with scepticism. That view wasn’t helped by Labor’s own admission fewer than 300 operators were expected to take up the call. Commerce Minister Sue Ellery admitted the impact was expected to be modest, with $2.7 million budgeted for the incentive – the equivalent of just 270 individual grants. Privately, tourism sources told the Times listing properties on Airbnb and similar platforms was far too lucrative for a $10,000 sweetener to work. But major groups across the region saw Premier Roger Cook’s offer as a welcome contribution to a more complex problem. Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association chief executive Sharna Kearney said many homes would rent for more than the $650 per week cap on entry to the scheme. “This ($10,000 incentive) will assist to address the longstanding and complex issue of housing availability, noting there is not one single solution to the issue as it manifests itself in our region, or in others across the State,” Ms Kearney said. Shire of Augusta-Margaret River president Julia Meldrum welcomed the incentive for its “potential to alleviate the rental crisis”. “Housing affordability is a critically important issue for the shire, affecting individuals and businesses,” she said. “The incentive scheme should encourage the transition of underutilised housing to meet the needs of our community.” City of Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin said the $10,000 cash lure was consistent with the local government’s own efforts to free up housing for renters. “The City has done its best with a range of practical and advocacy measures to address short and long-term housing needs, including sending a plea to registered holiday home owners in August 2022 to consider returning their properties to the long-term market,” he said. “While this had a small uptake, the announced financial incentive may see further uptake.” Busselton had an estimated 22 per cent vacant house rate at the most recent census. Critics said pleas from local governments had not worked to free up homes, and the latest plan augured the same outcome. Airbnb operator and recent Shire council candidate Reg Gillard told the Times the Premier’s offer was more likely to work in Perth for people renting out a spare bedroom. “However, without those operators, there will be many more transitory workers, backpackers filling the carparks and bush at night,” he said. “I suspect most short-term rental properties earn considerably more than $10,000 per annum.” In the Capes region, Mr Gillard feared “not many” would take up the offer. Just Home Margaret River program manager Alex Hughes said without a limit on short-stay nights, the incentive won’t “move the dial much”. Business adviser Dr Barbara Maidment questioned how the State Government would enforce compliance among short-stays taking the incentive.