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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

The 90-day cap and STRA planning proposal engagement report – a closer look

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The Short-Term Rental Accommodation Planning Proposal Engagement Report by Locale Consultants on behalf of Byron Shire Council (BSC) relates to community consultation for Council’s proposal tailoring short-term rental accommodation (STRA) to the special needs of the Shire’s community. In essence, it recommended a 90-day cap for the Shire, except for four coastal tourist precincts where it could take place every day of the year.

It is disturbing to note that there was one special interest group, and that was the owners of properties carrying out STRA. Many of these owners belong to an organisation called Australian Short Term Rental Accommodation Association (ASTRA). Other special interest groups were either ignored or warranted token minimal consultation.

How the special attention operated

Section 5.2 of the report explains that:

‘[T]he Minister for Planning requested that Council undertake consultation with the Australian Short Term Rental Accommodation Association (ASTRA) before the exhibition of the planning proposal. 

‘ASTRA was contacted on 10 August 2022 to attend an interview, with a follow-up request sent on 24 August 2022. Ultimately, an interview was held with ASTRA representatives on 29 September 2022. The interview was attended by four representatives of Byron ASTRA, a local committee set up to represent around 800 local STRA property owners in the Byron Shire.’

Further, in early September, Council sent emails to 1,994 property owners currently registered on the government’s STRA register. Twenty-seven per cent (530) of these registered property owners responded with a submission, over half being form letters produced for them by ASTRA. Not surprisingly these were not in favour of the 90-day cap for most of Byron Shire.

Council also emailed the 458 STRA property owners located in the mapped 365-day zone. It is a mystery why Council did not consider emailing the remaining non-STRA property owners in these four zones. One could expect that they would have something to say about open slather tourism in homes in their neighbourhood.

Does STRA take homes out of the long-term rental market?

There is a strong, but untested hypothesis that reducing the days per year for STRA will free up housing for long-term rentals. Overseas experience, especially in New York supports this hypothesis. 

Given that long-term rentals in Byron Shire are both scarce and expensive, one could surmise, on the simple supply and demand principle, if more housing was released to the long-term rental market, then there would be a reduction in the cost. 

The STRA property owners have, on the whole, stated that they would not give up STRA even in a 90-day cap area – ie no release, so no effect. However, the status quo situation is primarily of industry self-regulation, lack of financial burdens such as taxes, low registration fees, lack of monitoring for compliance, and pathetic fines for non-compliance. 

Real regulation elsewhere

It also assumes that there is zero possibility of following other cities that have imposed regulations, such as: that the STRA property must be the primary residence; that the owner has to live in the area; that the owner can only have one property for STRA; and many more varieties of regulation.

While NSW government remains comparatively slack in regulating the industry, the industry is secure in its intentions not to release property to the long-term rental market, to the detriment of the community.

On the issue of the possible impact of STRA on availability of long-term rentals, there are obvious other stakeholders that have not been emailed by Council, including real estate agents’ rental sections, the many community-based housing and rental NGOs, the organisations trying to relocate victims from the 2022 floods.

The consultants largely ignored the Victims of Holiday Lets (VOHL), with some 200 members. An email to these groups and more may well have brought different conclusions to this exercise carried out by this consultant group and Byron Shire Council. 

Closely tied to the above issue is the additional problem for rental refugees who work or volunteer in Byron Shire and the many businesses that have had to close or reduce their hours of trade because they cannot attract local workers.

On this basis, the chambers of commerce and disadvantaged business operators, are also key interest groups that have not been selected for contact by Council or the consultants. The very last few pages of the consultant report mentions interviews with two groups who take a different view to the property owners.

In addition to the interviews with STAY’s director, three executives from Airbnb, two executives from A Perfect Stay, the consultants did an interview with a representative of Neighbours not Strangers, and Victims of Holiday Lets. Yet the negative impacts these last two groups raised in relation to STRA were summarised in under 200 words.

Failure to address community concerns 

The overwhelming emphasis of this consultant report focuses on the views of the STRA property owners, who made up two-thirds of the responses. In this 22-page document, a 150-word paragraph (4.7) addresses the deep community concerns about the impact that the massive growth of the STRA industry is having on residents. Section 4.10 does address the issue of ‘other policy options’, and these are listed as 15 dot points, with zero discussion, unlike the various issue raised by the owners.

It’s not surprising that the industry submissions to the community consultation outnumbered the community responses 2:1. Responses were selectively sought from this group of property owners by both the planning minister and Council. ASTRA can justifiably report that the majority of responses were not in favour of Council’s proposal for a 90-day cap, with a few coastal exceptions.

It was always to be.

Go figure.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like stakeholders were allocated attention based on how large their stake in the matter is. That’s how equity works in practices. They have to be given more because their need is greater, aka, they have more to loose. Now suddenly equality is the desired standard? Equity for me, equality for thee?

    • The local business who can’t find workers have a large stake in this, as do the real estate rental businesses and the regulated accommodation businesses like hotels, B&Bs and tourist facilities. Windfall profits made by AirBnB operators in recent years have had a severe social cost that is also a matter of equity. These issues have been downplayed in this engagement report.
      Your comments seem to ignore main issue, the social and economic impacts of a new-economy goldrush, and focus on the equity of the profiteers.
      Do you have a vested interest in AirBnB?

      • I have no interest in any rental property nor corporations.
        You are engaging in protectionism to prop up businesses that have become inappropriate with the changing usage of the area. Let the dead wood die off and the staff will shift to the required businesses most likely accompanied with a wage rise. Holiday towns don’t need big chain hardware stores. The progressive economy of Byron is booming despite your conservatism. Complaints about social disintegration are pretty rich coming from someone who constructed a comment out of Marxist terminology.

        • What about a business model that sidesteps the requirements that make their operation appropriate to the needs of the community in which they exist? Scooping up the profits by ignoring these little considerations and leaving the community to pick up the tab and the fallout? I’d call that “inappropriate”. Another form of “protectionism”?

          If you listened to/read the submissions you would note that it’s all types of businesses struggling to get and retain staff, very much including tourism oriented businesses, and not just those catering to the trivial needs of the (often semi) permanents. You know proving things like education (I know teach them at home ‘cause schools are full of marxists), health services, food retailers and yes, even the odd hardware shop.

  2. “There is a strong, but untested hypothesis that reducing the days per year for STRA will free up housing for long-term rentals. Overseas experience, especially in New York supports this hypothesis”. Comparing Byron Bay with the experience of New York, a huge metropolis with a population of nearly 10 million, undermines the case for restricting STRA. Surely something more relevant can be found.

    • Manhattan used to be a migrant slum. Bondi used to be filled with ex-convincts. Byron used to be full of poor hippies.

    • Did you note the word “especially”? I’d say patterns across jurisdictions would be more important than identical population size? In any case claiming the comparison “undermines” the case is a clutch at straws.

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