February 11 was a big day for the Shire. The then NSW housing minister Anthony Roberts proudly announced that Byron would be given a special exemption from the state’s controversial new short-term holiday-letting rules.
We were to be the only local government area in the state with a 90-day cap on holiday letting in homes where the host wasn’t present.
But a tick under seven months later, there is still no cap and the release of the government’s draft short-term holiday-letting policy has the potential to completely undermine any limit that is introduced.
In an urgency motion passed last week, Byron Council again sought exemption from the new rules, which make no mention of the minister’s promise.
The Council also raised a number of concerns with the draft policy, which has the potential to undermine any positive effects from a 90-day cap.
Among the biggest issues is a provision that any cap on holiday letting, whether it be 90 days or 180, would not apply to bookings of 21 days or more because these are not deemed ‘short term’.
But Council fears this would render plans for greater regulation in the Shire ‘completely inert’.
‘This basically opens up the way for the commercial Airbnb operations to subvert any cap or threshold that might be imposed,’ deputy mayor Michael Lyon said.
‘They would be able to set up a ‘middle-man’ company that would book the property for 60 days and then simply turn around and rent it out for short-term letting without anyone being any wiser,’ he said.
‘That provision smacks of being run by the industry.’
Another issue of concern is the government’s proposal to have the register of short-term-holiday properties – which plays a crucial role in managing and enforcing caps and the proposed Code of Conduct – led and regulated by the industry itself.
‘There are some situations where self-regulation works but this isn’t one of them,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘This is a case where people generally won’t behave. They won’t register, they won’t declare their days; it’s destined to be gotten around.’
In a bid to ensure that any 90-day cap isn’t rendered redundant by these and other provisions, Byron Council is preparing its own draft policy specific to the Shire.
While the details of this provision won’t be known until Council staff complete the policy later this year, Cr Lyon said it would include Council’s having the power to slap a ban on holiday letting for new developments at the approval stage.
A zero-day cap
‘I believe Council should have the authority when approving new developments to impose a zero-day cap,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘That will be in our proposal.’
He said that while the 90-day cap wasn’t his preferred option, it could be implemented effectively.
‘I would be having zero-day caps in certain areas where there’s no host present.
‘But if you are strict in having 90 days – and that means it’s only made available for 90 days – then it’s potentially capable of shifting properties from holiday letting to the long-term rental market.’
The Council is hoping that, after finalising its proposal, it will be wholly or at least partly accepted by the government.
‘The government has shown that when you make a case with research they will listen,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘So that’s what we’re going to do.’