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July 28, 2021

Byron Council set to fine holiday-let owners

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Byron Shire Council has announced it will start fining owners of unauthorised holiday lets, with a particular focus on people who are renting out a secondary dwelling.

The announcement comes amid news that nearly 20 per cent of homes in Byron Shire are now being holiday let, squeezing out all but the most affluent renters.

First in Council’s sights will be people who have benefited from a decision it took in 2011 to drop development contributions on secondary dwellings and granny flats in a bid to increase affordable housing.

These people’s DAs specifically preclude them from using their secondary accommodation for short-term holiday rental.

Opportunity to make money

Byron mayor Simon Richardson, said that due to the Shire’s popularity as a tourist destination ‘many people now see short-term holiday letting as their opportunity to make money on their property from tourism and in some cases this can come at a cost to the community’.

Housing in Byron Shire is expensive and out of reach for many people. Council, while unable to control house prices, is trying to do what it can to make housing cheaper,’ Cr Richardson said

He added that while council would continue providing development incentives to encourage more housing it would also ‘work with the community to ensure that housing is provided to permanent residents’.

Cr Richardson said that the developer contribution exemption had been ‘keenly taken up by many home owners’.

But, he added, ‘Council shares the concerns of many community members who know that many secondary dwellings are being used to make money from tourism’.

17.6 pc of homes holiday let

Some 17.6 percent of the total housing stock in Byron Shire is listed as online holiday let compared to a national average of 0.2 per cent and a greater Sydney metropolitan rate of 1.7 per cent

‘Holiday letting in Byron Shire has exploded in recent years and this is resulting in significant adverse impacts on our community in terms of amenity, character and available and affordable long-term rental accommodation for residents.

‘Council recently resolved that it would take enforcement action on people who are using secondary dwellings on their properties for a purpose, such as tourism, which is outside their development consent.

‘Where there have been complaints, and there is a reasonable suspicion of unauthorised activities occurring on a site, Council staff will investigate.

‘If the owner of the property does not have Council approval for a secondary dwelling to be used for tourism purposes then owner will be issued with a fine which is $3,000 for an individual and $6,000 for a company.

‘There are hundreds of approved tourism accommodation providers in the Byron Shire who do the right thing with respect to approvals, safety and compliance and they play an incredibly important role in our local tourism industry.

‘Given the current estimate of short-term holiday-let properties online is some 2,900, and increasing, something needs to be done to protect our community’s right to residential areas that are filled with neighbours not tourists,’ Mayor Richardson said.

He added that while the NSW Government is proposing to review the effectiveness of its new short-term holiday-let policy in 12 months ‘I fear, that because of the sheer size and scale of holiday letting in our Shire, it may be too late in 12 months’ time to protect our community’s heart and character.

Byron Shire Council is continuing to lobby the NSW Government for either a deferral from the new state-wide planning policy, or for the inclusion of local provisions including a limit to the number of days for short-term holiday lets, a council-managed registration system and a requirement for the dwelling that is being used for short-term rental accommodation to be the primary place of residence of the owner.

Facts about holiday letting in Byron Shire

  • 17.6 per cent of total housing stock in the Byron Shire is listed as online holiday let. This is compared to a national rate of 0.2 per cent and a Greater Sydney Metro rate of 1.7 per cent
  • Airbnb beds account for more than four times the number of traditional tourist accommodation beds.
  • Online listings of entire homes equal nearly half the rental housing stock in Byron Shire. This equates to around 50 listings for each permanent rental available.
  • The increase in short-term holiday letting has tightened the local housing market where renters are unable to find permanent accommodation or are subject to short-term leases and seasonal displacements.

University of Sydney and Urban Housing Lab research on behalf of the Australian Coastal Councils Association.

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  1. The elephant in the room regarding affordable housing is the planning laws in Byron Shire and all over the country and possibly the world. There are simply no provisions for the kind of small home development that could so easily deliver affordable housing. There is no shortage of land but a massive shortage of the will and vision to make the necessary changes. Vested interests are keeping affordability out of reach. It is not an issue of building costs it is an issue of land affordability. Town planning needs an overhaul with common sense, wisdom and innovation.

    Byron Bay is a Global tourist destination that is likely to grow. The town needs to adequately provide for both local residents and visitors. When regulators use restrictive regulations to try and control a market, even worse distortions are likely to occur. Instead of the typically Australian attitude of taking a big stick, why not take positive ACTION to facilitate affordable housing.
    To the planners and council in Byron Bay, you COULD take a bold, visionary approach and allow compact medium density villages of affordable housing that utilise innovative sustainable water, waste treatment and power generation. Open the door to affordable housing by allowing the design and development of land that is not loaded with massive charges and fees. It is all possible. It is only lack of vision and will of regulators that are keeping housing un-affordable.

    • Well said. A vision of best practice town planning, forward thinking and bringing all of the possible affordable solutions to the table. The price of doing nothing is what’s happening now.

  2. The headline for this article should read “Council does job it’s supposed to do….Finally”. Still, they haven’t started yet. We will see how committed they really are. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  3. What about Ballina Shire Council pulling there finger out too. It is not just Byron Bay anymore has spread throughout the North Coast now and growing. Lennox Head, Ballina, Brunswick, Mullumbimby, Yamba, etc it is everywhere now. What going to happen wait till it is out of control like Byron and then start doing something about.. Just outright incompetent to protect communities in the first place.

  4. Great move however $3000 is possibly just a week’s short-term rental. hardly even a slap on the wrist. Make the fine match the crime as a real disincentive please Council!

  5. Oh yeah!! Council will fine the owners of illegal holiday lets in granny flats? I’ve heard it all before. Let the public see how many have been fined in 3 months time. Or, is this a case of all talk and no real action. Prove me wrong Byron Council.

  6. Most owners renting out their properties on Air BNB are doing so legally and for the right reasons, a few would be:

    – to help pay their mortgage
    – work for a stay at home mother
    – creating affordable accommodation for other people to experience this beautiful area (one part, that hoteliers would be unhappy about – although, their doesn’t seem to be a shortage of NO VACANCY signs around)

    Everyone has a right to affordable housing, and there are hundreds of towns around Australia with affordable homes and jobs. Unfortuantely, Byron Bay is one of the most beautiful areas in this country and being a free market, it means that lots of people want to live here and understandably, it’s becoming very expensive. This is a democracy, not a communist country. A free market. Looking back at history of the last 100 years, I’m very thankful for that.

    Byron is a holiday town, a beautiful town, a very expensive town. Don’t try and persecute owners who are sharing their space, so that other people can experience this beautiful area whilst helping pay off their extremely high mortgages to live here.

  7. Byron Shire Council trying to make money off other peoples hard work. People are not making money for nothing. They still need to manage their guests, clean the properties etc..

    All short term rental operators should get together and start a petition to have this type of power removed from councils. They should not have the right to fine people. Especially when they know the level of fine will not deter anyone but will only line councils pockets. Its straight up robbery!

    Useless council! Should be amalgamated with Tweed or Ballina.

    Someone should start a facebook group. Only let those in the group who can prove they have a property on AirBnB. Then get a petition going. Alone you have no power but together you do. All the best.


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