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Council proposes blanket 90-day cap on holiday letting

Paul Bibby

Byron Council has abandoned its plan to divide the Shire into separate short-term holiday letting ‘precincts’ with different caps on the number of days people can let their houses if they are not living there.

New figures from Byron Shire Council show one in six properties in the shire are being holiday let. Photo: AirbnbSecrets

At last week’s planning and development meeting, Council instead voted to adopt a staff-recommended approach involving a blanket 90-day cap on holiday letting across the Shire.

The approach is a central part of Council’s attempt to address the impacts of short-term holiday letting, which has soaked up a significant proportion of the Shire’s rental housing stock, thus exacerbating the housing affordability crisis.

In the lead up to the last state election, the incumbent Liberal/National coalition promised Byron that it would have a special exemption from new short-term holiday letting laws. These laws had cleared the way for the practice to expand across the state and had potentially disastrous consequences for Byron.

Since then, Byron Council has been developing a draft strategy in accordance with that pre-election promise and subsequent discussions with the minister.

It will now wait hopefully for the state government to approve the strategy and turn it into law.

There had been considerable debate within the Shire about the best way to limit the impacts of short-term holiday letting, while at the same time accepting the reality of Byron’s status as a tourist town.

Council had originally proposed a precinct model, whereby areas such as central Byron and Brunswick Heads would have unrestricted short-term holiday letting, even when the host doesn’t live in the Shire. 

The remainder of the Shire would have various caps on letting, including large areas with a 90-day cap.

But Council has now abandoned that approach, choosing instead to adopt a blanket 90-day day approach following advice from staff.

‘A proposed precinct model has not been progressed as it requires significantly more data analysis to validate,’ staff said in a written report to Council.

‘Without this, it has the potential to create an unequal distribution of benefits and burdens across the community.

‘Instead, a more simplified approach is recommended that will seek to introduce a 90-day limit for non-hosted STRA in all areas as an initial planning control response, with further data analysis to continue on the potential for a precinct-based model which could be implemented at a future time.’

This recommendation reflected, in part, the results of a survey of local residents conducted over the recent holiday period.

Responses to the survey were split quite evenly between those who favoured a precinct model and those who felt a simpler 90-day cap should be applied equally in all areas.

It was on this basis that Council staff felt they were not justified in recommending a precinct model without further data to demonstrate its fairness and effectiveness.

However, concerns have been raised about the veracity of the survey results given that there was no limit on the number of times people could participate.

In their report to Council, staff said ‘while it is acknowledged that there may be some bias in the feedback due to multiple responses, all submissions have been reviewed by staff with this in mind, and the results, as presented, are generally considered to be a fair representation of current community views.’

Meanwhile, new data on holiday letting in the Shire from Airbnb shows that between July 1, 2016 and November 1, 2019, the total number of Airbnb and HomeAway listings increased from 1,586 to 4,237.

The data also shows that about half of these listed properties were highly utilised holiday lets and ‘would most likely be considered de facto tourist and visitor accommodation’.

However, while the total volume of listings is still increasing, take-up rates appear to be slowing overall, suggesting that short-term holiday letting may be approaching saturation point.


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9 responses to “Council proposes blanket 90-day cap on holiday letting”

  1. John Davies says:

    Any form of holiday let should be considered a ‘commercial activity’. Therefore why doesn’t Council insist that residents allowing part of their home to generate income have their rates re-classified from ‘residential’ to ‘commercial’? This would generate an excellent income stream for Council allowing more upgrades to our infrastructure. There need not be any leaking of this information to Centrelink nor the ATO.

  2. C Wills says:

    So, title deeds on residential housing and building certification on residential construction are not worth the paper they’re written on – all hail Airbnb?

  3. Cr Michael Lyon says:

    Hi John, the reason is because the State Government won’t allow it. Indeed, they have defined the activity as Short Term Residential Accommodation with the effect that it can be considered an exempt activity in a residential zone. It is not the way we would have liked it.

    Further, even if we had have been given this ability, it would not result in an overall increase in rate income to Council. It would simply have redistributed the burden somewhat such that residential rates would fall a bit and those undertaking STRA would be paying commercial rates.

    The key to success is having a locally held registration system. This will enable an income for Council to pay for compliance and management of the register and ensure that we can effectively police the activity such that we see a return to the market of long term lets, something our community desperately needs. If the State Government are serious about allowing us the ability to regulate locally for our conditions then they will support our planning proposal.

  4. S Edwards says:

    All Airbnb income is deposited into a bank account therefore (income) tax is paid on it. As older locals, we rely upon our Airbnb income to be able live in Byron Bay. We share our home just as we would with flatmates (but with no complaints from our body corporate). We have THREE GUESTS IN A ROOM sometimes and this provides AFFORDABLE HOLIDAYS FOR FAMILIES and offers people a local experience. Without our services there would be have to be a lot more hostels built and the profits going out of town. Commercial rates for us might mean we cannot afford to live in our home.

  5. Justina Donnamaree says:

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful news… good on you Byron Council: you are doing the right thing by the people and communities of the Shire… I.hope it has the intended consequence: to free up the rental market to keep locals and workers living in the area; and is actually true to the original spirit of air bnb… It will also be fair to the commercial operators…

  6. Harry says:

    No problem for you S Edwards. If are truly a hosted STRA living in the STRA dwelling then you will be able to short term rent for 365 days a year as exempt development as long as you comply with all the conditions. Do some research on the issue. Read Cr Michael Lyon’s comment about commercial rates. A bed tax would be better.

  7. John Lazarus says:

    Council bases its Rates on 2.4 persons occupying a house, the non STRA ratepayers will be subsidising this STRA commercial activity, both for residential support infrastructure (water, sewer, garbage collection etc.) and for our public infrastructure (roads, public toilets, parks and beachfront etc), and with local event sites moving to events of 58,000, with STRA generating about 8 times a residential rent, then residential houses will increasingly be purchased just for holiday letting. The LEP use of a residential house prohibited the use of a residential house as a tourist accommodation. If ‘Air’ non compliance is now being legalised, then perhaps its time to develop a local community initiated ‘Air’ compliance team, and ‘Air’ Shire, State, and Federal governance organisations, and see if we can get them ‘legalised’ (or not bother with any ‘legalisation ‘ from our increasingly contemptible levels of governance, and just go for it!!).

  8. Liz L says:

    Correct, renting out some rooms in your house for STRA isn’t probably what is doing the real damage. Better than buying up investment portfolios for that sole purpose.

    Done year round though on a large scale basis, it does impact on the number of cars parked in the street, cars on our roads, rubbish to be collected etc which does end up adding to the local government burden and costing us all more. It’s ironic that it is so tempting, perhaps necessary in some cases, to STHL in order to pay the upwardly spiralling rates – which have been necessary largely because of the impacts of STHR.

  9. Braden says:

    How about instead of providing “Affordable Holidays for Families” from outside the area we provide “Affordable Housing for Families” right here.
    STHL should never of been allowed, It is being totally abused and turned into big business. The government should of been stronger and stood by their laws.
    So it should be:
    Shame on the Government for allowing STHL.
    Shame on the entrepreneurs and business for abusing STHL.
    and Shame on the people that use STHL and behave in such an atrocious way.
    Yes regulation is necessary, the 90 day cap is a great idea, if you are upset with it it is only because you are running your short term let as a business. Registration is necessary, but there should be some sort of tax or something added. We need to make long term rentals a better alternative to Short term Rentals.

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