Local Byron Shire approved accommodation providers are highlighting the lack of contributions and negative impact that whole house rentals through holiday let platforms like Airbnb have on the local community. They are banding together to lobby the NSW state government to grant exemption to Byron Shire Council from the new Short Term Holiday Letting Laws due to take effect in January 2019.
‘Once this new law comes into place early next year, our towns will be over-run by tourists staying in unregulated holiday lets that are not paying council any commercial fees to run their homes as a “pop-up hotel”. Byron Shire is a unique destination and we are most at risk with this new law of running Byron into the ground.’ Mr Geoff Wood says, a Byron Shire approved accommodation operator.
Under current regulations the use of rural or residential houses for tourism is prohibited unless a development application (DA) is lodged and is approved for the use of short term stays. When a DA is approved the house is then considered a business and is required to meet a range of fire and safety measures, is charged commercial rates.
‘Unapproved holiday lets don’t contribute any fees to Council,’ pointed out Mr Wood.
‘It’s only the 400 approved accommodation operators that pay the commercial fees that Council so desperately needs to maintain roads, parks, public toilets, cycleways, the rural bush fire service and the lifesaving service.’
Renting a room not the issue
Clarifying that renting a room in your own home on Airbnb is not what is concerning approved accomodation providers Steve Haby said ‘The Airbnb charter started as a space to share, for instance renting out a room in your own home. Now it has evolved and you have people buying residential properties and renting them out as lodges and hotels. They are unattended and unregulated often turning into party houses.’
Meetings and petitions
A public meeting has been called for this Wednesday September 26 at 7pm at the Cavanbah Centre, Ewingsdale to discuss the concerns of both accommodation providers and the local community have with the new short term holiday letting laws that are due to take effect in January 2019. There will be speakers from the community, businesses, council and the government.
‘Some of the statistics and stories will shock you. It is important that we protect both the residents and community as well as approved accommodation operators from the detrimental effects of the new law coming into place,’ said Mr Wood.
‘Holiday Lets are not contributing any commercial fees and are getting away with running the same business as an approved operator without paying into the same commercial kitty that is used to support the whole community and all our amenities, including the amenities that our tourists enjoy.
‘There would be at least 4,000 unregistered holiday lets already, but once the new law takes effect, this number will explode and we will lose more residential homes to holiday letting when finding a rental is already hard enough as it is. ‘
The group have also started a CommunityRun petition to #SaveByron from over-tourism and need 10,000 signatures so that it can be heard in parliament.
‘The petition is asking for Byron Shire to be exempted from this new law that will effectively allow booking websites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Luxico and Stayz to run even more rampant with an expected flood of unregulated holiday houses that have not gone through any compliance, due diligence or restriction,’ Mr Wood says.
‘Houses and homes are not meant to be party venues or pop-up hotels. Residential houses are meant to be used as permanent housing which is the intended purpose of residential zoning. However while our zoning laws are being thrown out the window, our community continues to deteriorate. We fear that we are heading for ghettos in our quiet residential areas – we have already seen increased burglaries in streets where there are mostly empty houses.’