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December 3, 2021

Holiday letting policy adopted by NSW govt

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Hans Lovejoy, Mia Armitage with Fernando de Freitas

New state rules on short-term holiday lets (STHL) for NSW, announced late last week, won’t be introduced to the Byron Shire until as late as February next year, as the local housing crisis intensifies.

Byron Shire Council asked the government for a 90-day per year cap in an attempt to retain the rapidly diminishing rental stock, which has seen many locals forced out of their homes. 

According to Friday’s press release from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), the STHL policy will come into force on July 30 and requires ‘Minimum fire safety standards’, and comes with a previously announced code of conduct for hosts, guests, online booking platforms and agents.

On Friday, NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, also announced extra time for Council to propose where, exactly, it would like a 90-day annual cap on holiday rental properties to apply.

Council have until January 31, 2022 to submit a proposal, Mr Stokes said, after Byron’s temporary exemption from a state-wide 180-day annual cap was first announced in February 2019.

Council staff notes sent to councillors over the weekend said the proposal process was ‘complicated’, Greens Byron Shire Councillor Sarah Ndiaye told Bay FM’s Community Newsroom on Monday.

The notes reportedly said staff found out in December last year that Council must submit a detailed economic impact assessment to the DPIE of the effect the cap could have on hosts and operators.

DPIE asks for economic impacts for Byron letting industry, not community

While the notes didn’t refer to economic impacts on people seeking long-term rentals in the Shire, Cr Ndiaye said she expected staff would include recent reports of the effects the Shire’s housing shortage was having on the ability of businesses to find workers.

Meanwhile, Nationals Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Ben Franklin, still based on the far north coast after failing to win the Ballina electorate in the 2019 state election, said the new deadline for the Byron Shire Council was a ‘terrific outcome’ as it gave staff time to ‘get all of the information, the background documents and all the arguments able to be done’.

He told The Echo, ‘I will be doing all I can to achieve [securing the 90-day cap per year]. If there is no resolution by this time, non-hosted STRA in Byron Shire LGA will be limited to 180 days’.

Mr Franklin did not reply to the question regarding the new policy; The Echo asked, ‘It appears there is no set limit to the number of persons per bedroom, and hence the number per holiday let allowed. ‘Doesn’t this conflict with the government view in the 2019 public exhibition that there should be two people of any age, per bedroom, up to a maximum of six bedrooms allowed? Won’t the result be excess overcrowding?’

Meanwhile, the elected MP for Byron and Ballina Shires, Tamara Smith MP (Greens) told The Echo, ‘While we wait for the outcome for Byron’s 90-day limit, this is part of a bigger picture where genuine affordable housing for the region needs to be addressed’. 

‘Unfortunately, even with a 90-day limit, those wealthy enough will leave their Byron properties empty for most of the time, and rent them out for the big festival events and holidays.

Policy reform needed

‘Genuine affordable housing includes reforming state planning policies like the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that provides developers massive concessions. The SEPPs don’t provide any tangible affordability and were written for city developments’.

As for pursuing legal action over breaching regulation around holiday letting, Cr Ndiaye said the costs were too high to end in successful prosecution.

Cr Ndiaye said the onus on staff of gathering evidence was too time-consuming and therefore expensive, despite their ability to initially find local short-term holiday providers via their online host platforms.

The proposal for a 90-day annual cap in parts of the Byron Shire was aimed, instead, at deterring property owners from excluding dwellings from the long-term rental market.

Yet the region’s rising popularity beyond traditional peak holiday and pre-pandemic festival seasons suggest holiday property owners could, for example, rent dwellings out almost every weekend in a year for a bigger return than a long-term lease would typically attract under a 90-day cap.

Recent figures quoted by Mr Franklin showed more than half of Byron Bay’s rental properties were used for short-term holiday lets.

‘There’s no question that governments of all persuasions haven’t really provided enough social housing,’ Nationals MLC Ben Franklin told Bay FM’s Above the Fray host, Fernando de Freitas, after the government’s STHL announcement last week, ‘Absolutely no question at all’.

The NSW coalition government marked ten years in power at the end of March, and Mr Franklin has held his position in the upper house since 2015.

For more information visit www.planning.nsw.gov.au/STRA.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Meanwhile, Nationals Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Ben Franklin, still based on the far north coast after failing to win the Ballina electorate in the 2019 state election, said the new deadline for the Byron Shire Council was a ‘terrific outcome’ as it gave staff time to ‘get all of the information, the background documents and all the arguments able to be done’.
    “A terrific outcome”..really?
    This bloke lives on the Far North Coast but still gets “pulled into line” by the National Party establishment..he hasn’t a bloody clue!!!
    The political spin and utter bullshite that comes out of a state politicians’ anus is breathtaking..because they really believe in the shite they spin!
    The basic issue is this…
    Byron Council..plus all other NSW local councils get LUMBERED with the costs of implementation regulations whilst the state government get all the revenue..and not ONE CENT will go back to local councils to help them IMPLEMENT the regulations.
    Then there is the minimal costs to the short term accommodation owner for compliance…which is a couple of hundred dollars per year…sweet bugga all..even though they are running their establishments as a 24/7 business..just like other business in NSW..
    So in that case these owners should have ALL the regular business regulation costs put on them…
    Why should they get all the breaks?
    Yep, this could mount into many thousands of dollars for them…well then tuff !
    You start a coffee shop..takaway etc..they have to pay many thousands of dollars to comply with local and state regulations..which are pretty hefty..then why not short term accommodation?
    If they want to open an accommodation business..AirBnb or any other short term accommodation…then put up the money and comply with all the regulations…parking, sewerage, fire regulations, noise abatement etc..
    These new short term regulations are a joke..and a hypocritical one at that.
    Why?
    An exiting accommodation business..ie hotel motel./ caravan park etc..they have all the business regulations & costs put on them..but some tourists only spend a night or a few days..in other words..a “short term visit”….ain’t they short term accommodation place as well?
    The short term owners and their ilk will complain…this is not good for tourism ..job looses and all that emotional blackmail shite…..really?… .with developers lined up along the pacific highway wanting ” in ” on Byron and its’ surrounds, just itching to put up their latest and greatest, then thrust this onto the community.
    Sorry..that old crust of an emotional argument doesn’t fly anymore..
    Make the compliance costs high for short term accommodation..ie $100K establishment per room….then $10k per room per year annual fee.
    Then if you are serious Mr Franklin..make it retrospective..
    People wanting to have short term accommodation businesses may think twice and it may become more economically viable to have long term renting..which possibly could free up more residences for long term accommodation.
    Then just to give a “carrot” for long tern rentals..the State Government help subsidise the council rates for rental residences to the local councils ..

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