Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has dismissed suggestions by his predecessor and fellow Greens colleague Jan Barham that the Council should take a hard line with the shire’s holiday-let owners.
Instead, he has urged the state government to allow councils to create precincts where holiday-letting could occur and others where it would not be allowed.
Ms Barham made her suggestion on ABC radio yesterday after revelations in the latest Anglicare nationwide rental snapshot that showed on a given weekend in April there was not a single property for rent in Byron Bay that would meet the budget of someone on the minimum wage.
The issue of holiday lets has been a running sore for the shire, which has up to 20 per cent of its rental housing stock locked up by it, according to Ms Barham.
‘I think the Gosford Land and Environment Court decision last year very clearly outlined… that it is a planning issue when a dwelling is approved as a residential dwelling and it’s obvious it’s being used on a permanent basis for tourism purposes,’ she told ABC radio yesterday morning.
‘That’s a compliance issue – and Council should act.
‘When people are using approved housing for investment and commercial purposes, that’s adding to the pressure,’ she said
Mr Richardson told ABC radio yesterday evening that websites such as Air Bnb were adding to the Council’s woes, implying local government was powerless to stop them.
‘Have a look on Air Bnb and you’ll see hundreds of rentals in Byron Bay, hundreds and hundreds,’ he said.
‘There’s everything from a room in a house to entire homes for rent,’ he added.
When asked for further comment by Echonetdaily he said that the rising popularity of websites such as Air Bnb, while it didn’t put the issue ‘beyond our control’ did make it ‘more difficult’ for councils.
‘State planning support for local circumstances is the most crucial piece of the puzzle,’ he said.
He added that local areas needed ‘the ability to determine what is appropriate for them.’
‘Allowing local areas to create precincts, for example, could inform all where it is permissible and acceptable and where it isn’t,’ he said.
‘This would provide clarity for those buying in an area seeking a vibrant community and those investing in a holiday let.
‘Some local areas could make their whole town a holiday-let precinct; others like Byron could use it to manage holiday-letting so it allows the visitor economy to develop whilst quarantining areas to still look after the community, who are the ultimate guardians of the area and the key ingredient in what makes Byron an attractive destination.
‘It is the community that creates the vibe visitors love and it is the community that act as guardians of the land and places, so it is crucial the community is protected for both the integrity of the community and the visitor experience.’
Meanwhile Byron Shire executive manager of planning Ray Darney said several workshops on holiday letting were held during 2013.
‘As a result of the workshops, a discussion paper is currently being prepared outlining holiday letting issues and a number of options to regulate. This will include revisiting a precinct model plus an open model with development applications required to meet strict regulations on dwelling size and noise.’
The discussion paper will go to key stakeholders for feedback and then help inform a Holiday Letting Strategy. When completed the new strategy will be put forward to all Byron Shire residents and ratepayers for comment.
Mr Darney said Council has been grappling with the issue of affordable housing for many years now and was no different to many other locations in Australia.
‘Back in 2009, Council removed significant developer fees to encourage secondary dwellings (granny flats) in urban zones; over 230 have been approved. These approvals do not permit holiday letting.
‘Plus currently we are moving towards greater flexibility in the design of dual occupancies on rural properties to encourage continued use of older existing housing stock. Infill development in the urban areas is also a key area that Councils can assist with providing a greater supply affordable housing which can ease supply and demand.
‘Council has also recently had on public exhibition a development application for a 20 room boarding house, which is yet to be determined, for singles and couples.’
Mr Darney said that whilst affordable housing was a local issue, it desperately needed state and federal support.
‘There is next to no public housing in Byron Shire. And the lion’s share of funding for properties is allocated to metropolitan and larger regional areas. The alternative is for Council to continue to encourage the private sector to provide affordable housing options and increase the supply of housing through its planning controls,’ he said.