People renting out their empty Sydney properties through online home-sharing services will soon be subject to state government restrictions.
But they won’t affect properties in the rest of NSW unless individual councils act.
Within greater Sydney, owners who don’t live in their property will be able to use it for short-term letting for a maximum of 180 days a year.
The six-month maximum can also apply to regional towns but only if councils directly act to implement it.
The proposal, announced by the NSW government on Tuesday, specifically targets vacant and investment properties using services such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
Greens slam plan
The changes have drawn the ire of the Greens, with both Byron Cr Michael Lyon and Ballina MP Tamara Smith slamming the move.
Cr Lyon said the state government had ‘failed the community of Byron Shire’.
‘They have adopted a one-size fits all policy framework, which has not recognised the needs of our community,’ he added.
‘The continuing loss of housing stock in Byron to short-term holiday letting (STHL), that is seeing scores of families having to leave every month, has not been addressed.
‘It has now been opened up, and will mean Byron, which we on the Council want to be a showcase of sustainability to the world, is a free-for-all market where locals will be priced out to satisfy unsustainable tourism.
‘It would have been simple, give Councils the ability to… not allow out-of-town or non-resident landlords to let short-term. This would protect long-term housing stock and ensure that the community of Byron have places to live,’ he said.
Cr Lyon added he would be ‘very interested to see the conflict of interest declarations lodged by members of the government when this is lodged on the floor of parliament’.
Ms Smith described the policy as ‘another example of the NSW Government consulting but not listening to the community’.
‘The Greens welcome a mandatory code of conduct but ultimately local councils will be left to manage the impacts and they are best placed to regulate the short-term holiday let market,’ she added.
‘Many of these properties operate like accommodation businesses and should face local development controls.
‘The NSW Greens support a sharing economy but it shouldn’t have negative consequences for communities. The government has failed to get the balance right with these new regulations,’ Ms Smith said.
More flexibility: Labor
Labor’s Ballina candidate, Asren Pugh, said the new laws ‘need to take into account the social cost of having entire communities turned into mini hotels’.
‘At a minimum, there needs to be special consideration for tourist hotspots like Byron Bay where these laws won’t work,’ he said.
‘Byron Shire in particular needs a more nuanced approach to holiday letting. We need a system that gives more power to local communities to decide what is appropriate for their own towns and we may need different rules for different areas in the shire.
‘For example, you may want to allow holiday letting all year round on the beach front, while protecting other residential suburbs by limiting it to 60 or 90 days per year,’ Mr Pugh said.
Protection of residents
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said the government was seeking to deliver ‘a careful balance between the local economic benefits of short-term holiday letting and the protection of long-term residents’.
President Linda Scott said, ‘obviously one size does not fit all when it comes to different regions’.
‘LGNSW has consistently argued that individual councils are best placed to determine the caps that would best balance economic development via short-term accommodation with rental affordability and public amenity for residents,’ Cr Scott said.
The laws will also impose a ‘two strike’ policy, meaning home-share users will be banned for five years from any platform for committing two serious breaches within two years.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the reforms ‘recognise the estimated $31 billion annual contribution of online booking platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway (formerly Stayz) to the Australian economy, while stamping out party houses through a mandatory Code of Conduct’.
The Code will also include a new dispute resolution process to resolve complaints, and NSW Fair Trading will have powers to police online platforms and letting agents.