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Holiday rental website critical of Council’s new policy

Calls by online holiday rental agency Stayz for Byron Council to abandon its own holiday letting policy and adopt the NSW government’s yet to be adopted policy has been dismissed by Greens Cr Michael Lyon.

Stayz corporate affairs director Eacham Curry told The Echo, ‘Global experience shows that an arbitrary cap on nights that a property can be available to let won’t suddenly make ordinary short term rental properties available for long term rent, and it certainly won’t address the other consistently cited concerns about community amenity and impact on local council service provision.’

Curry argues against correcting the imbalance of homes permanently let in Byron Shire. When asked if more long-term rentals could result in a strengthened community and thus a more desirable visitor destination, he replied, ‘Holiday rental accommodation not only adds to the community by opening up new areas to tourism that are not currently serviced by traditional tourist accommodation, it also acts as a catalyst for economic growth and jobs – all important things for strengthening communities’.

Yet Cr Michael Lyon (Greens) told The Echo, ‘It is no surprise that there has been push-back from the holiday letting industry in response to Council’s policy position…’

He accused Eacham Curry from Stayz as having ‘only concern for his company’s interests’.

‘…The evidence shows that long term let provides better returns to property owners compared with short-term letting, when the short term letting is done for less than 90 days per year. Greater availability and supply of long term rentals will mean better affordability, this is simple economics. I am glad that Mr Curry acknowledges the need for registration because this is essential in ensuring that the 90-day caps are adhered to.

‘Byron has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the state and Byron households spend, on average, close to half of their disposable income on rent. This exacerbates inequity and forces parts of our community to move out of the shire and to commute in for work. This in turn adds to traffic chaos, now a daily occurrence at the highway and coming through town during peak hour’.

The following is a Q&A with Stayz Corporate affairs director Eacham Curry:

Stayz says Byron’s policy “…will result in holiday homes sitting unused for longer.” This appears the objective of the policy – ie to return some holiday homes back to long term rentals

‘In our experience, short-term rentals are mostly made up of holiday homes that were never part of the long-term housing stock. They are rather the family beach shack they use themselves or rent out to other holiday makers when they are not staying there.

‘By reducing the availability of short-term rentals, these family holiday homes will not automatically turn up on the long-term rental market. Rather, families will stop letting these properties out when they are not using themselves – this will limit the availability of short-term rentals and ultimately drive up the cost of holiday accommodation.

‘Global experience shows that an arbitrary cap on nights that a property can be available to let won’t suddenly make ordinary short term rental properties available for long term rent and it certainly won’t address the other consistently cited concerns about community amenity and impact on local council service provision.’

In Byron’s case, more long-term rentals could result in a strengthened community and thus a more desirable visitor destination. Would you agree?

‘Holiday rental accommodation not only adds to the community by opening up new areas to tourism that are not currently serviced by traditional tourist accommodation, it also acts as a catalyst for economic growth and jobs – all important things for strengthening communities.

‘More specifically, holiday rental accommodation has been part of the fabric of Bryon Bay and regional communities for decades. In fact, Byron Bay was years ahead of the trend of travellers seeking out personalised holiday experiences – an offering that short-term rental is perfectly positioned to accommodate.

‘In any case, our regulatory solution will give Councils more information about the short-term rental accommodation sector and allow them to make more informed decisions about housing and urban planning.’

Byron’s holiday rental market is unique, yet Stayz appears to be against a policy that reflects Byron’s unique situation. Why shouldn’t Byron have a unique solution to this issue? 

Stayz supports state government mandated registration of all short-term rentals for the precise purpose of collecting verifiable data that will inform proper decision making about how best to manage the short-term rental sector. Without a clear understanding of the short-term rental accommodation sector, it is almost impossible for councils like Byron Shire to make informed decisions about urban planning and housing.

‘Our three-pronged regulatory solution will empower Byron Shire Council to address localised questions about housing and urban planning. With better data at hand about our industry, Mayor Richardson and Byron Shire Council will be able to address important considerations housing and urban planning in a way that does not unnecessarily limit the economic potential of the important tourism industry.’

Stayz’s state-wide policy recommendations for the NSW government are:

  • Compulsory and simple registration for all properties listed on a short-term rental accommodation platform, that will help inform sensible and easily understood policy.
  • The creation of a mandatory short-term rental code of conduct for owners and managers – including a three strikes rule for those who do not meet the standards.
  • A new largely industry-funded and administered body to quickly address problems and adjudicate questions about amenity, noise and overcrowding at short-term rental accommodation properties.

 

Full statement by Cr Michael Lyon:

‘It is no surprise that there has been push-back from the holiday letting industry in response to Council’s policy position on Short Term Holiday Letting, rebranded recently to Short Term “Residential” Accommodation or STRA. These comments from the holiday letting industry fall into two categories, the absurd and the reasonable. Addressing the absurd first, Eacham Curry of Stayz shows he has only concern for his company’s interests. Contrary to his baseless assertions, the proposed 90-day cap on STRA will indeed address availability of long term letting because the evidence shows that long term let provides better returns to property owners compared with short-term letting, when the short term letting is done for less than 90 days per year. Greater availability and supply of long term rentals will mean better affordability, this is simple economics. I am glad that Mr Curry acknowledges the need for registration because this is essential in ensuring that the 90-day caps are adhered to. We have assembled comprehensive and compelling research on the effects of STRA in the Byron Shire and it is precisely this research that leads us to this policy response.

‘Others connected to the industry such as Colin Hussey and Michael Murray make good points and I acknowledge that the proposed policy is not perfect, as no broad-based policy can be, but doing nothing is not an option given the research and statistics show just how much our community is suffering due to the lack of regulation. Byron has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the state and Byron households spend, on average, close to half of their disposable income on rent. This exacerbates inequity and forces parts of our community to move out of the shire and to commute in for work. This in turn adds to traffic chaos, now a daily occurrence at the highway and coming through town during peak hour. Our first priority must be to return a portion of houses being used for holiday let in residentially-zoned areas back into the long-term letting pool. Once we have done this we can re-assess in the future and potentially look at easing the restrictions in certain areas, perhaps by creating a precinct system. We could get nuanced and creative if the State Government has a mind to, by allowing a fixed number or percentage of dwellings to be let year round, through an approval and application system. What is needed right now however, is a simple, enforceable mechanism to ensure that residential zones are housing the residents and workers of this shire.

‘Compliance with this regime can be achieved with a locally operated register whereby short-term letters are required to specify in advance any period that they will be making their property available. This enables Council staff to monitor letting sites and any property not properly registered that appears on a platform can automatically be issued a fine or followed up with enforcement action. A fee for registration will cover the costs of compliance, something already able to implemented under existing Local Government regulations. Once the scheme is operational, most people will follow the rules, particularly when it is clear that compliance will be effective. In the past, the evidentiary burden was too high and action too costly for Council staff to successfully prosecute large numbers of people, hence why despite it being a prohibited activity under the current laws it has been able to run rampant in recent years with the advent of the new online technologies.

‘The potential impacts on tourism of this policy are also overstated, as are the benefits of short term letting in our community. Traditional forms of holiday accommodation provide far more jobs per dollar spent, and interestingly, outside peak season, Byron’s hotels/motels and DA-approved B&Bs have a lot of spare capacity, especially for a tourist town, where in places like Noosa the occupancy rate is much higher. With the expansion of our two nearest airports in Ballina and Coolangatta, virus pandemics aside, we are not likely to see a slackening of demand anytime soon, quite the opposite. Any change in policy will create some winners and losers, but the inaction on this issue over the last ten years has seen a huge amount of distress and our community has been losing out while the lucky few, many being out-of-town investors, have cashed in. It is past time to address this imbalance and act for the broader good of our community, as more and more tourist towns and cities are beginning to do across the world that are facing the same struggles we are’.

 

 


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14 responses to “Holiday rental website critical of Council’s new policy”

  1. Emily Stewart says:

    What Cr Michael Lyon said is enlightening:
    “Byron has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the state and Byron households spend, on average, close to half of their disposable income on rent.”
    Council looks at that statement as being not enough tourists while the congested Ewingsdale Road runs all over that fact, then switches to local residents. Residents should not be paying rent more than a quarter of their income. And that would be according to the NSW state government, responsible for Housing.
    Two problems get mixed up by Council.
    Units are built for tourists, but we have too many residents already here without housing, and those residents are not wealthy enough to buy, so they have to rent the units that were built for tourists at tourist rent rates.
    And what does that do? It makes the bulk of Byron residents poor so they then reject Council rate increases and Council then can’t renew the infrastructure, like sewer pipes and potholes in roads. It also makes more money for the top 10 percent of investors as they are the landlords charging the high rents.
    Council is not working for local residents. They are working for tourists, tourism and high income investors.

  2. Annette says:

    Well Mr. Curry, unless you are a permanent resident in Byron Shire, I doubt that you can understand what has happened there and the damage done due to unrestrained short-term holiday lettings. Let Byron Shire decide what it best needs for the benefit of it’s community. Once more, a complex issue is considered purely about econpmics and jobs with the well-being of the community brushed aside.

  3. Anthony Humphreys says:

    I think we will see shortly , vacancy rates jump up and tourist numbers drop significantly. Just for a while Byron will become less crowded and possibly even “nice again”, just for a while. It only took fire ,flood and a pandemic to do it , so don’t expect it to last.

  4. Harry says:

    Eacham Curry from Stayz, or Homeaway (run by multi-national Expedia which pays no corporate tax in Australia) has had a close and long association with the Liberal Party since 1993.
    Curry has no interest in protecting the Byron Shire community from short term letting which is still an illegal activity in residential zones without development consent. His only interest is in maximizing Stayz profit and maintaining his job.

  5. Harry says:

    An article in The Australian Financial Review this week states that short term rental bookings in Byron have dropped by 15% recently.

  6. Jane says:

    The idea that the short term letting ‘industry’ can form itself into a body that can lead a registration system (to provide data) and oversight and manage a code of conduct has no credibility even among the short term letting ‘industry’ itself. The fact is that the ‘industry’ is highly competitive and will not fund, or work together to achieve this outcome and with a moments thought is clearly absurd in a international market. In fact, the ‘industry’ is highly fragmented with dozens of platforms, and, increasingly unlicensed agents, and becoming more fragmented and more competitive all the time.

    That said, the importance of a registration system cannot be overstated but it needs to be operated by local council or at the state level by those authorities or by a non-conflicted provider with the IT to monitor and detect illegal operations to ensure compliance. In the majority of overseas jurisdictions this already operates via councils or companies hired by council like Host Compliance in San Francisco. Registration must be a pre-condition to use of a residential property for tourism and be part of the planning system – i.e. no registration means the STRA use of the property is unlawful. Keep it simple.

    The argument that unlimited tourism is inherently ‘good’ for any ‘community’ and brings economic benefits with no down sides is a complete fallacy. Hollowed out communities, seasonal demand, loss of housing supply etc all need to be taken into account – strategic planning – it is a no brainer. Local councils across NSW asked for a consistent definition,a registration system, and effective investigation powers, they did not ask to have their strategic planning powers removed. The NSW Government’s proposed STRA Framework is not about ‘home sharing’ (commercial language in a legal instrument) and it cannot differentiate between different types of residential property, different markets, different locations etc. It simply lacks rationality and that serves no-ones interests.

    If the previous ministers had not drunk the ‘cool aid’ then communities like Byron would not still be bogged down in this bitter dispute.

    Spare a thought for residential apartment communities where all proprietors in the strata scheme are footing the bill for unlimited turnover of strangers walking in an out of their buildings, destroying their privacy, amenity, and security, and turning up in the laundry, garden, swimming pool. This makes apartment living unattractive and further reduces confidence in the strata sector, which is something that NSW cannot afford.

  7. Chris McMahon says:

    You should all be drug tested there is nothing nice about over populating a tiny town with no real industry .
    The council were elected by god knows who and what has the council done elected a panel to make crap decisions that keep a town in turmoil.
    Its officially a crap hole, congratulations idiots.

  8. James says:

    Cr Michael Lyon, why are all the multi-million dollar properties Belongil Beach and Wategos exempt from your proposal? I can see plenty of those on Stayz. It seems you have a soft spot for ultra high net worth investors unlike those pesky middle class investors. What a ruse!

  9. Erik says:

    Good work Byron Shire – you have waited 10+ years for Byron Bay to become a world-class holiday destination that supplies over 6 million accomodation nights (stats from your own website) and now you want to take a sledge hammer to it punish those that bought a holiday house in a sea side town***

    ***excludes the super rich with direct water views from Wategoes

  10. John says:

    Cr Michael Lyon states “‘Others connected to the industry such as Colin Hussey and Michael Murray make good points and I acknowledge that the proposed policy is not perfect, as no broad-based policy can be, but doing nothing is not an option given the research and statistics show just how much our community is suffering due to the lack of regulation.”
    Many interested parties manage illegal holiday lets. They need to be reminded that short term holiday letting in residential zones without development consent is a prohibited activity. Therefore, they are aiding and abetting an illegal activity.

  11. Cr Michael Lyon says:

    In response to James and John, we are NOT excluding the multi-million dollar properties. Where did you get that from? All properties in the shire will be subject to the same 90-day limit. We listened to the feedback on this and acted accordingly, and there have been no winners picked. Cheers

  12. James says:

    Cr Michael Lyon “Council proposes that for most of the Shire, it will become permissible to holiday let homes for up to 90 days per year. Holiday letting for 365 days a year is proposed for beachfront areas of Byron Bay, most of Belongil, and all of Wategos” printed by this newspaper in January.

  13. John says:

    To James. Read the minutes of the Council Planning meeting of February 20, available on the Council website. The proposal put forward by Council staff during the STRA policy public exhibition for some beachside zones in Byron Bay to be exempt 365 day areas has been completely dropped by staff and Council voted for the recommendation that there should be 90 days max thru the shire. Do your research James.

    To Cr Michael Lyon. Read my post again. I only pointed out that short term holiday letting without a DA is still an illegal and prohibited activity in Byron Shire. You are well aware of this. Those owners, managers and real estate agents who are involved and receive a monetary recompense are aiding and abetting an illegal activity. Read carefully Councilor.

  14. B.E. Brooks says:

    Just wondering why Erik feels punished for owning a home in Byron ? Please enlighten me 🙂

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