After three public hearings, 212 submissions and a parliamentary report the NSW government has announced it is not yet ready to make a decision about how to regulate short-term holiday letting through online booking services like Airbnb and Stayz.
Instead, the NSW government will conduct a ‘broad consultation’ with the public and the short-term accommodation industry, including bed and breakfasts and hotels, before publishing an options paper next month.
The options paper, which the Departments of Planning and Environment and Fair Trading will also contribute to, will explore land use and planning issues and strata management concerns, including the impact on the lives and safety of existing residents.
This morning’s announcement (Thursday) was in response to an October 2016 report by the NSW Parliamentary Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment on the best way to regulate the explosion of short-term accommodation letting and the continued rise of Airbnb in the state.
The report recommended the government make it easier for homeowners to rent out a whole or part of their house and for it to adopt a light regulatory touch.
This approach included relaxing state planning laws so that local councils could class short-term letting as exempt development, providing it did not have excessive impact on other residents.
But the government offered only ‘qualified support’ to the committee’s recommendations, stating they needed further consideration and more public consultation.
It has been slow going. After submissions closed in November 2015 there were three public hearings between March and May 2016 followed by the final report on October 19, 2016 and the government’s response six months later.
NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said it was too complicated and divisive an issue to rush.
“It’s no surprise that NSW and Sydney are highly sought after destinations for international and domestic visitors, however, we must find a balance between providing options for accommodation and residents being able to go about their daily lives. This will support the best environment for residents and visitors so that it is a great destination,” Mr Roberts said.
“The inquiry recommendations make sense, but the regulation of short-term letting needs broader engagement with the industry and the community to establish a model that enables it to continue to flourish and innovate whilst ensuring the amenity and safety of users and the wider community are protected.
“It’s sensible to take time on a complex issue like this, which is why we are releasing an options paper next month.”
The government supported the report’s recommendations around communicating with councils and residents any changes and that councils take the lead on informing landowners about their rights and duties.
Also supported was giving owners’ corporations more powers to respond to any negative consequences of short-term lets in their buildings, through amending strata regulations.
NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean said the government would concentrate on finding common ground to address the concerns of everyone involved.
“We need to find what will work best for the people of NSW, which is why we’re issuing an options paper for discussion with relevant stakeholders,” Mr Kean said.
“We don’t want a holiday accommodation market that’s so over-regulated it puts people off coming here but the rights of residents who live near these properties must be considered too.
“While short-term holiday letting, if properly managed and respected by all parties, can be a boost to the local economy, the need to protect people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes is equally important.”
Meanwhile, Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh called the government’s response a ‘strong, positive step towards ensuring fair and progressive rules and regulation for residents and visitors to NSW’.
“We appreciate that these things take time and that it’s important to get the balance right,” Mr McDonagh said. “We’re confident that Premier Berejiklian and the NSW government will join the state governments in Tasmania and South Australia, in embracing home sharing, and introduce fair regulations that allow more people in NSW to share their extra space.”
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