Online accommodation booking website Stayz has weighed into the holiday letting debate, warning that ‘local government is now considering measures that could put local jobs at risk.’
With Byron Shire Council forging ahead with plans to regulate holiday letting, it has also recently announced it will again pursue illegal holiday letting.
Jordan Condo, who is Stayz director of corporate and government affairs, told The Echo, ‘Byron Bay could lose this source of jobs and economic growth by introducing measures that would penalise families who let out their holiday houses, who have been the backbone of Byron Bay’s tourism industry.’
But Greens councillor Michael Lyon told The Echo, ‘The greatest damage to our community that is happening right now, that has been happening increasingly over the last five years, is caused by holiday letting.’
He said, ‘With the expected expansion of Coolangatta Airport from six million to 16.6 million visitors per year and the upgrade of Ballina airport due shortly, there is no end to the increase in tourist numbers that we will see.
‘The answer is not to turn our town into one big holiday let and undermine the local long-term letting market.’
‘The answer, if we wish to accommodate more tourists, is to provide more tourist accommodation in the form of motels, bed-and-breakfasts and the like. These can still be listed on Stayz, Airbnb etc and will provide more jobs than using our residential areas as holiday letting.
‘Also, to say that jobs are at risk is not a sound argument if the people doing these jobs have to travel an hour or more to get to work each day because there is no local accommodation. As a council, we have to focus on environmental concerns and residential amenity and balance these with the desires of the tourist economy.’
Local govt levy?
The Echo asked Mr Condo how Council can keep roads and infrastructure in working order given the huge increase in holiday letting – other countries have adopted a levy that is paid to local governments for Airbnb bookings, for example, so there is a contribution of sorts.
Is this supported by Stayz?
He replied, ‘Punitive measures against homeowners – like day restrictions and financial levies – will discourage them from listing their properties and drive up the cost of accommodation. This will have a direct negative impact on local wages and the industries that are dependent on tourism for revenue.
‘The cost of providing infrastructure like roads and sewerage are the same whether a property is let on a long-term basis with permanent tenants, or if it’s occupied on a periodic basis by short-term holiday-goers.
‘In fact, the increased economic activity associated with a strong short-term rental accommodation sector already helps local councils fund infrastructure projects via increased land rates.
‘The only result of a new tax on a tourism-dependent economy like Byron Bay will be stunted economic growth, job creation and income.’
Mr Condo continued, ‘As holiday destinations around the world are experiencing an uptick in the popularity of short-term rentals, we are working with local governments to increase the transparency and accountability of short-term rental accommodation while preventing damage to local jobs and tourism.
‘To achieve this, we encourage governments to adopt registration systems for homeowners and standards of conduct that include measures to ensure accountability, like removing listings from platforms.
‘Transparency is also important. In Australia, data are not collected for accommodations with fewer than 15 rooms.
‘As a result, there is a poor understanding of the contribution that short-term rental accommodation makes to local jobs and industry.
‘Naturally, we believe governments that have accurate and timely data can make better decisions for their communities. Therefore, we support platforms sharing their data with local governments to better inform their decisions and conversations with state officials.
‘While we work with governments to improve transparency and accountability of short-term rental accommodation, we also discourage governments from taking actions that would harm local jobs and tourism.’