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Govt ignores Airbnb levy as part of letting reforms

Airbnb owners are set to benefit at the expense of council-approved holiday-let providers if the government’s short-term letting bill is passed this week. File image

Hans Lovejoy

A NSW government minister has embraced digital disruption at the expense of those who have sought council approval for holiday letting.

The Fair Trading Amendment (Short-term rental accommodation) Bill 2018 is expected to pass NSW parliament this week, yet critics such as Byron Shire Council say it is unworkable and vague. And those operators who have DA approvals for operating say it will decimate their industry and leave Council with less revenue.

In an August 2 letter to a Byron Shire resident and obtained by The Echo, NSW Nationals MP Niall Blair admitted that his government were not in control of the holiday-letting sector, saying, ‘The internet knows no boundaries, and if locals… decide they want to place their homes for rent on platforms like Airbnb, rather than put it out for long-term rental, that’s entirely their business.’

Yet Blair says regional councils like Byron Shire will have the power to limit the number of days for which properties can be let out.

‘And importantly these changes are not set in stone. The government has committed to reviewing the new valuations after 12 months,’ he said.

With the growing evidence that the sense of community is eroded in areas of high holiday letting desirability, European and US cities are now beginning to heavily restrict such activity and are also regulating it via a levy through Airbnb bookings, for example. 

Airbnb levies are collected by local councils, and contribute to maintaining and improving infrastructure.

The Echo asked Niall Blair’s office whether such a levy was considered for this bill, and why it was not included in the draft Bill.

After receiving a reply from a ‘spokesperson for the NSW government’ that did not answer the question, The Echo asked local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin the same question on whether an Airbnb levy was considered for the Bill.

Franklin provided a reply from a spokesperson from the office of the minister for Fair Trading which said, ‘We want to make sure that local economies continue to benefit from short-term holiday letting, but at the same time we don’t want neighbours having to put up with a party house next door.’

‘We looked at several different options as part of the government’s policy, and that included levies being imposed on hosts. But after extensive consultation, we decided that the best way forward was to crack down on bad behaviour, while also giving local councils the power to require development approval for short-term holiday letting of more than 180 days a year.’

Franklin restated his previous comment that he is ‘very conscious of Byron’s special and unique status and the potential impact of laws in this space.’ 

‘That’s why I will be consulting broadly over the next twelve months on the impacts of the legislation and taking a Byron-specific set of recommendations back to government to be considered in their 12-month review.’ 


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