The home-sharing platform, Airbnb, is disrupting the social and spatial dynamics of cities. While there is a growing body of literature examining the effects of Airbnb on housing supply in first-world, urban environments, impacts on dwellings and dwelling typologies remain underexplored. This research paper investigates the implications of “on-demand domesticity” in Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, where the uptake of Airbnb has been enthusiastic, rapid, and unregulated. In contrast to Airbnb’s opportunistic use of existing housing stock in other global cities, the rise of short-term holiday rentals and the construction of new homes in Melbourne has been more symbiotic, perpetuating, and even driving housing models—with some confronting results. This paper highlights the challenges and opportunities that Airbnb presents for the domestic landscape of Melbourne, exposing loopholes and grey areas in the planning and building codes which have enabled peculiar domestic mutations to spring up in the city’s suburbs, catering exclusively to the sharing economy. Through an analysis of publically available spatial data, including GIS, architectural drawings, planning documents, and building and planning codes, this paper explores the spatial and ethical implications of this urban phenomenon. Ultimately arguing that the sharing economy may benefit from a spatial response if it presents a spatial problem, this paper proposes that strategic planning could assist in recalibrating and subverting the effects of global disruption in favor of local interests. Such a framework could limit the pernicious effects of Airbnb, while stimulating activity in areas in need of rejuvenation, representing a more nuanced, context-specific approach to policy and governance.
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