Northern NSW coastal councils are demanding tighter regulation of short-term holiday lets and the sharing economy as they battle partying holiday makers, neighbourhood complaints, non-compliance issues and housing shortages.
Greens Tourism and North Coast spokesperson Jan Barham said the short-term letting of residential premises through sites such as Airbnb and the boom of the sharing economy was stealing business from approved tourism accommodation providers and causing a multitude of other problems for councils in the popular holiday area.
Almost 2,000 residential properties in the Byron Shire and Tweed Shire council areas are estimated to be rented out to tourists and travellers, which has had a profound impact on rent levels and the availability of accommodation for people who live and work in the area.
There is currently a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the regulation of the short-term holiday letting industry, with a deadline for submissions of 9 November.
Ms Barham said the unregulated use of residential properties had caused negative impacts in Byron Shire for residents, including noise and antisocial behaviour, for more than a decade.
“It has also had a major effect on the availability and affordability of housing,” Ms Barham said. “It makes a mockery of strategic planning that defines residential and commercial zones and the impacts on infrastructure.
“Residents have suffered for too long, missing out on neighbours and a sense of community. For those seeking rental properties in the area, it has reduced the available stock, contributing to this being one of the most unavailable and unaffordable regional areas in NSW.”
Ms Barham said that the short- term holiday letting of residential premises not only did not pay its way but also had a major impact and cost to councils. There could also be serious insurance issues if a tourist was injured in premises which did not have planning permission to be used as holiday accommodation, she said.
She said that the sharing economy had advantages, such as earning homeowners an income and giving tourists a local’s view of an area, but short-term holiday lets could cause difficulties when buildings did not comply with industry standards on safety, insurance and planning permission.
“Other issues that may come to light through this inquiry into holiday letting are the possibilities for tax evasion, and that property owners may be claiming negative gearing and a capital gains tax discount while effectively running commercial businesses,” she said.
Jenny Dowell, President of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) , which represents Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed councils, told Government News that holiday lets were a “huge issue” for NOROC’s coastal councils.
“Residents let out their homes for many thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, some people come in and take advantage of staying in someone’s home for the week and have an attitude that they have paid a lot of money and they can do what they like. That can mean partying until the early hours of the morning, having lots of visitors or not being respectful to neighbours. Residents in the area, quite rightly, get upset about that,” Ms Dowell said.
A spokesperson for Tweed Shire Council said the council received “a very small number of complaints each year,” around 15 on average compared with there being in excess of 2,000 dwellings operated as short term rental accommodation during peak tourism periods across the Tweed, according to anecdotal evidence from local rental managers.
“Nuisance complaints may range both in character and severity, and typically arise from excessive noise or behaviour and traffic parking related issues,” said the council spokesperson.
“There may be other factors that a more permanent occupier would be familiar with and that would not pose a significant or direct risk of harm, for example; bushfire threat, flooding, swimming pool access and the like.”
The spokesperson said these issues would be dealt with through the council’s code of conduct. For example, in areas at risk of flooding the council would ask for a flood evacuation plan to be displayed in a prominent place and homes with pools may be required to install additional safety or warning devices and signs.
The Environment and Planning Committee and the inquiry into short-term holiday letting will explore:
- The current situation in NSW and comparison with other states
- Differences between traditional accommodation providers and online platforms
- The growth of short-term and online letting, and the changing character of the market
- The economic impacts of short-term letting on local and the state economies
- Regulatory issues posed by short-term letting, including customer safety, land use planning and neighbourhood amenity, and licensing and taxation
- Any other related matters.
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