Airbnb has slammed a council decision to impose $6000 fines on the owners of unauthorised holidays lets in Byron Bay.
The new Byron Shire Council ruling targets those flouting planning laws which specifically prevent the renting out secondary dwellings as holiday lets in the northern NSW town.
Many are currently listed on Airbnb, in a town where almost 20 percent of all houses are holiday lets and, according to the council, long-term rentals are disappearing for “all but the most affluent renters”.
From now, if the owner of a Byron property does not have council approval for a secondary dwelling to be used for tourism purposes, they will be issued with a fine of $3,000 for an individual or $6,000 for a company.
Julian Crowley, Airbnb’s public affairs manager for Australia and New Zealand, said: “It is disappointing that Byron Shire Council continues to try and malign home sharing and the immense benefits it brings.
“Council’s heavy-handed policies would only serve to hurt the locals and small businesses that rely on Airbnb and would favour the big end of town. These extreme policies are also out-of-step with what the broader community wants.
“Our community firmly rejects the idea that there should be one set of rules for Byron Bay and another for the rest of NSW.
“We again call on council to stop lobbying for special treatment and instead work with us on making sure the fair new state-wide rules for home sharing meet the needs of Byron Bay.”
In 2011, Byron Shire Council dropped development contributions on secondary dwellings and granny flats in a bid to increase affordable housing – with the stipulation that DAs specifically precluded owners from using their secondary accommodation for short-term holiday rental.
But due to the shire’s popularity as a tourism destination, Byron mayor Simon Richardson says: “Many people now see short-term holiday letting as their opportunity to make money on their property from tourism and in some cases, this can come at a cost to the community”.
Housing in the popular beach town and hinterland is expensive and limited, exacerbating the problem of lack of affordable rental stock alongside the proliferation of Airbnbs.
“Holiday letting in Byron Shire has exploded in recent years and this is resulting in significant adverse impacts on our community in terms of amenity, character and available and affordable long-term rental accommodation for residents,” said the mayor.
“There are hundreds of approved tourism accommodation providers in the Byron Shire who do the right thing with respect to approvals, safety and compliance and they play an incredibly important role in our local tourism industry.
“Given the current estimate of short-term holiday-let properties online is some 2,900, and increasing, something needs to be done to protect our community’s right to residential areas that are filled with neighbours not tourists.”
Richardson acknowledged Airbnb’s point that the NSW government is proposing to review the effectiveness of its new short-term holiday-let policy in 12 months.
But he said: “I fear that because of the sheer size and scale of holiday letting in our Shire, it may be too late in 12 months’ time to protect our community’s heart and character.”
17.6 percent of total housing stock in the Byron Shire is listed as online holiday let compared to a national rate of 0.2 percent.
Airbnb beds account for more than four times the number of traditional tourist accommodation beds and online listings of entire homes equal nearly half the rental housing stock in Byron Shire. This equates to around 50 listings for each permanent rental available.