The Byron Shire Council says it’s ‘one step closer’ to receiving government permission for a 90-day annual limit on short-term rental accommodation (STRA) in parts of the Shire.
Reinstated planning minister, Anthony Roberts MP, originally invited Council to submit its proposal more than three years ago.
The government, meanwhile, introduced a 180-day cap across most of the rest of NSW.
Bureaucratic delays and an outsourced study of potential regulation limits on property owners left the Byron Shire without any effective regulation of dwellings, once used as homes but now used for unofficial small accommodation businesses, aside from a State register.
The Urbis-contracted controversial study inevitably found negative economic impacts of the proposed 90-day cap, but was found by a peer review, commissioned by Council, to have used questionable methodology that failed to weigh stakeholders fairly.
A majority of councillors, after winning electoral campaigns dominated by promises to tackle a declared local housing crisis, voted earlier this year to reject the Urbis report and continue lobbying for a 90-day cap.
Councillors Mark Swivel and Alan Hunter were the only two to vote against.
On Thursday afternoon, Council issued a media release saying it had made ‘significant progress’ on STRA policy.
‘The NSW Government’s Department of Planning approved a Gateway Determination for a planning proposal to reduce the number of days of non-hosted short-term rental accommodation in parts of the Byron Shire from 180 days to 90 days,’ the statement read.
Council said it could proceed to the next stage of public consultation on the proposal.
But hopes of the new regulations facilitating the return of a flourishing permanent community to coastal areas of the Shire were unlikely to be met via the proposed version of STRA for Byron.
Short-term rental precincts
Instead, unlimited holiday letting could continue in parts of Byron Bay, Suffolk Park and Brunswick Heads under the proposal, while a 90-day limit would apply in other areas.
Council said it wanted to ‘mitigate the significant impacts of short-term rental accommodation on permanent rental housing supply, amenity, local character, and community, while still allowing for a diverse and sustainable base of tourist accommodation options to support the local economy’.
Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon, was quoted in the statement.
‘The more rental accommodation that is available for holiday letting, the less stock is there for people looking for long-term, secure housing,’ he said.
Cr Lyon referred to the Urbis report, saying it clearly showed 90-day caps would return the largest amount of properties to the long-term pool.
‘It won’t be a silver bullet but it will make a difference and we need to make a difference in the housing space,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘I thank the NSW Planning Minister, the Hon. Anthony Roberts, for taking into consideration the desperate housing crisis in our Shire, exacerbated by the recent floods, and am grateful that our pleas have been heard.’
The mayor said Council would read and collate submissions received on the proposal before presenting them to Council for consideration and a vote.
Council said it would invite the public to make submissions soon.
Fantastic win: MP
Local NSW Ballina MP, Tamara Smith (Greens) said, ‘This is a fantastic win for our community because we get to shape the way our villages in Byron Shire grow rather than property developers and market forces.
‘It is disappointing that we have to wait 12 months for Council’s proposed 90-day cap to be implemented across most of the Shire, but it will make a huge difference whenever it comes into effect.
‘The Department of Planning’s own modelling shows that at least 1,500 whole homes will come onto the rental market once the 90-day cap is implemented. Given the housing crises in the Northern Rivers this cannot come into effect soon enough,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The State government has recognised that Byron faces unique and exceptional circumstances, and has given Council the unique authority to control short-term holiday letting.
‘The community has been lobbying for over a decade to rein-in unfettered short-term holiday letting in Byron Shire and we have all been aghast at the statistics of 3,000 plus whole homes being entirely let on holiday platforms at any one time’, Ms Smith said.
‘Our community will be one of the only communities in Australia that can decide how our towns grow in terms of prioritising homes for residents and workers’.