Big guns line up to shoot down holiday let legislation

New holiday letting law proposals have been caught in the crossfire from both online holiday letting agencies – Airbnb and Stayz – which have lined up to shoot down the terms of the discussion paper released today … but from completely different angles.

Meanwhile Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has warned the public and his parliamentary colleagues not to be taken in by any ‘astroturf’ (fake grassroots) campaigns mounted by the multi-billion dollar agencies.

Today, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean revealed the terms of their long-awaited Option Paper on holiday letting legislation.

The government is inviting public discussion on a whole new range of proposals including strata by-laws that could ban holiday lets completely, industry self-regulation, changes to planning regulations to allow holiday lets in homes for a limited number of days per year and registration of homes where short-term letting is carried out.

It represents a complete reboot after the government’s light-touch, pro-holiday letting report on short-term letting that was released then quietly shelved in April.

But online letting giant Stayz says the Option Paper’s focus is on inner-city issues that could destroy rural and regional economies, alleging it failed to distinguish between traditional holiday homes in country and coastal towns and the “disruptive” newcomers, such as Airbnb, letting residential properties in inner cities.

While Airbnb welcomed progress on drawing up holiday letting legislation, it was even more scathing of some of the specific proposals.

“These heavy-handed options would unfairly punish everyday people who rely on Airbnb, rob people of their right to share their homes in a respectful way, cost local jobs, and make it more expensive for people and families to travel,” said a spokesman.

But Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has welcomed the terms of the Option Paper, saying it clearly identifies that short-term letting can cause impacts in apartment buildings.

“This is why strata communities want the right to be able to grant permission or not, or impose specific conditions,” he said.

However he has warned against fake grassroots campaigns after his office was inundated with pro-Airbnb postcards earlier this year … only a handful of which were from his constituents.

“It’s clear there will be a concerted corporate campaign from those whose business model benefits from lax regulation, including denying apartment owners the right to set the rules for their building,” said the MP whose constituency has the most high-rise apartment blocks in the state.

Mr Greenwich added that the proposals for heftier fines for disruptive guests and their hosts were only a small part of the bigger picture for apartment owners.

“Reform must be about more than just stopping party houses, but ensuring that communities are protected and housing affordability doesn’t further erode from buildings and neighbourhood turning into hotel precincts dominated by ever changing holiday makers.”

His opinion would be supported, perhaps surprisingly, by online holiday letting giant Stayz which shocked the industry earlier this year when it teamed up with the hotels-based Tourism Association of Australia to call for tighter regulation of holiday lets … but only in the inner cities.

“Holiday homes are the lifeblood of many regional towns and cities, but the Government has ignored regional constituents in their response,” says Jordan Condo, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs at Stayz.

“The Options Paper does not distinguish between someone renting out a beach or bush holiday home from someone renting out a room in an already leased property in a city strata apartment.”

But the government ministers overseeing the writing of new legislation say they are looking at all areas of holiday letting and the potential impacts of new laws.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to short-term holiday letting may not work,” says Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean in a press release issued today. “It’s very important that we consider all options, which is why we’re welcoming public submissions.”

The options paper proposals include:

  • Self-regulation , including a code of conduct, complaints management, education, monitoring and reporting;
  • Strata regulation, including by-laws managing visitor behavior, by-laws for compensation for adverse effects and by–laws prohibiting short-term holiday letting;
  • Planning regulation, including development approval, limit of length of stay and number of days per year, limit by number of bedrooms and regulate by whether host is present;
  • Registration to manage safety and amenity issues.

You can download the report HERE. NSW residents and stakeholders have until October 31 to make a submission via the government’s online portal planning.nsw.gov.au/STHL.

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