An Airbnb host in one of Australia's most expensive regional areas decided to open her cottage to local renters struggling to find a place to live - and she hopes others will do the same.
The NSW Southern Highlands cottage had been a weekender for many years while Jane Burns was living in Sydney to the north.
But when she settled in the region herself - a retreat for celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, and Jimmy Barnes - Ms Burns put the property on Airbnb to attract city folk looking for brief escapes from the rat race.
When the Black Summer bushfires hit in 2019-20 and thousands of homes were lost, Ms Burns decided she had to help.
"I felt so bad that so many people lost their homes in the bushfires that I contacted our local real estate agent to say, 'Hey, if anyone ... needs a home we've got a cottage that can be rented'," she said.
First tenant in need
At the back of her home was a barn that she was renovating for loved ones to stay in when they visited.
Her first tenant in Bundanoon came via a social media post.
A local woman needed someone to look after her dog because she was at risk of homelessness unless she accepted a rental that would take her - but not her pet.
Ms Burns invited the woman, who had survived domestic violence, to come see the renovated barn. She stayed for three months.
I think that's when it really hit me that there were so many people that were basically homeless, or are becoming homeless.- Jane Burns, Southern Highlands landlord
"That's when I decided to stop renting my Airbnb out and to make it into a permanent rental to at least put something on the market that people could rent," Ms Burns said.
"I think that's when it really hit me that there were so many people that were basically homeless, or are becoming homeless."
A family then rented the cottage for nine months before they moved interstate for a job, and another woman moved in.
While Airbnb provided hosts with an income, investment properties were also an opportunity to offer accommodation to those who needed it most, Ms Burns said.
One million empty homes across Australia
When Ms Burns's Airbnb was put on the rental market, she received 20 applications and it was "really hard" to pick a tenant.
On the 2021 Census night, 10 per cent of Wingecarribee shire's 23,571 homes were unoccupied.
Across NSW nearly 300,000 residential buildings, or 9.4 per cent, were sitting empty. And around Australia nobody was at home in a staggering 1.04 million properties on the night.
More than one solution?
Holiday lets in regional areas could be used as rentals for locals in the off-season, a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the state's social housing shortage found in August 2022.
It also recommended looking into whether some vacant dwellings could be used as temporary shelter for vulnerable women and children.
Another suggestion from the "Options to improve access to existing and alternate accommodation to address the social housing shortage" committee was to explore a vacancy tax to discourage property owners from leaving homes empty.
This story is part of ACM's Young and Regional series. Read more here.