SHARING ECONOMY: AirBnB Christian Morrow

Mayor slams holiday letting 'fiasco'

UPDATE: BYRON Shire Mayor Simon Richardson has branded the state government's handling of the Short Term Holiday Letting inquiry "a fiasco" saying closer scrutiny of the details released so far only adds to council's disappointment.  

"It seems now, that though councils in non metro areas can choose the amount of possible days (minimum 180), a proponent can seek a DA for longer and of course, councils decision can be challenged at a land and environment court," Cr Richardson said.  

"Seems we (Byron Shire Council) don't have the planning power after all (to limit the number of days per year a house can be holiday let). Again though, the planning mechanism behind all (this) is still not outlined."  

Cr Richardson has written to the State Planning Minister seeking an urgent meeting to seek a pause on the implementation of any policy around the regulation of short term Holiday Letting citing a lack of consultation by the state government with council over the issue.  

The letter reads in part:  

Byron Shire Council received the State Government announcement of its response to the short term holiday letting option paper exhibited by the Department of Planning and Environment last year with great trepidation," the letter reads.

It was extremely disappointing then for Byron Shire that further direct engagement with local government (and in particular this Council) did not occur subsequent to the consultation close in October 2017 and this announcement.

In reviewing the limited details on the proposed new state-wide planning controls, it would seem that short-term holiday let is to be enabled via exempt development provisions with or without host for 365 days a year, unless a reduction to 180 days is granted.

Other critical details to Council being development standards, registration and or compliance proposals for short term holiday let activity are lacking and needed for an informed consideration and response to be made.

 ...Byron Shire has experienced rapid growth in the last few years in online holiday rental listing and activity in the Shire as evidenced below. This has resulted in significant adverse impacts on our community in terms of amenity and character, and has reduced the available and affordable rental accommodation for residents and key workers that are needed to support our local tourist economy.

At December 2017 Byron Shire had around 2,655 listings of the total Northern Rivers listings 4,256. Listings are up from 1,483 listings in 2016. Byron Shire has a total of 15,645 dwellings. Listings currently represent @17% of part / all dwellings use. Staggering compared to other local government areas in NSW and Australia. 

As such a blanket approach to planning regulation via a state policy is a major cause for concern. I therefore write to you to seek an urgent meeting to discuss the above.

ORIGINAL STORY: RAISING more questions than delivering answers is how Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson is so far describing Tuesday's announcement from the NSW State Government on Short Term Holiday Letting regulation.

While many in the industry are hailing the announcement the mayor said council was struggling to get clarity around issues like rates, taxes, registration and enforcement.

"But it looks like it's business as usual for Short Term Holiday Let companies like AirBnB and Stayz," Cr Richardson said.

The State government proposal targets vacant and investment properties using services such as Airbnb.

Owners that don't live in their property can use it for short-term letting for a maximum of 180 days a year within greater Sydney but properties in areas like Byron Shire will be left uncapped.

The laws will also impose a 'two strike' policy, meaning home-share users will be banned for five years from any platform for committing two serious breaches within two years.

Legal Counsel for Byron Shire Council, Ralph James said, "So far all we have is a media release with a number of questions remaining."

"There is no definition of Short Term Holiday Letting itself or details of any exclusion areas, registration system or what may be included in any code of conduct," Mr James said.

"There is just not a lot to comment on so far."

Byron Greens Councillor Michael Lyons was in no doubt the State Government had failed the community of Byron Shire with Tuesday's announcement.

"(The state government) have adopted a one-size fits all policy framework which has not recognised the needs of our community," Mr Lyon said.

"The Greens welcome a mandatory code of conduct but ultimately local councils will be left to manage the impacts and they are best placed to regulate the short-term holiday let market.

"Many of these properties operate like accommodation businesses and should face local development controls."

Airbnb's Country Manager for Australia Sam McDonagh told the Northern Star, NSW represented a third of all Airbnb listings in Australia and called the announcement a 'watershed moment'.

"The rules will be a boost for the NSW economy and a welcome relief for the countless small, local businesses who rely on the Airbnb guest dollar," he said.