Is there another pathway other than the current adversarial one? As someone who has an accommodation business that has been severely affected by disrupters such as Airbnb, I understand operators who cry ‘not fair’.
Clearly the number of holiday-lets removes rental stock, increases prices, and impacts on community. On the other hand, I own a second dwelling that I let out for profit and stay at from time to time. (I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that renting a beach shack in Byron is how my family discovered this area 40 years ago, ie this has been a tradition for decades.)
The NSW government’s recent policy on Short-term Holiday Letting (STHL), allows for councils to apply to restrict the number of lettable days down to 180 per year. If BC did this, investors would reconsider the profitability and as a result a number of properties could return to the market. The policy also includes a code of conduct that provides a two-strikes-and-you’re-out for those properties that continue to allow noisy or inappropriate guests. Why not work with this legislation and see if there’s not a tenable compromise?
If Council then accepts these STHL properties as compliant, they could levy commercial rates (or an intermediary rate), on these properties. Properties that comply with these conditions could have a Council ‘tick’ they could advertise with. These rates could help pay the wage of a Council employee to monitor that the 180 days and code of conduct are enforced.
Finally, both approved STHLs and existing tourist accommodation could join forces and voluntarily pay a bed tax so that the visitors who put so much pressure on our infrastructure can contribute something. It needn’t be excessive: as little as 10 cents per bed, per day, to start. Just something from the tourism sector to show we understand the pressure our businesses bring to our community and that we want to be part of the solution.
It’s also worth considering that we are pretty much guaranteed a federal Labor government next year that has promised to limit negative gearing to new housing stock and halve the CGT discount. This will have an enormous long-term impact on how existing housing will be viewed by investors (ie not favourably).
So Byron Council, STHL owners, local accommodation proprietors and the Byron community, let’s end the vitriol and work together.