Byron Shire councillor Michael Lyon.
Byron Shire councillor Michael Lyon.

Councillor hits back at ‘baseless assertions’ on holiday letting

A BYRON Shire Councillor has hit back at holiday letting companies’ claims its proposed cap on un-hosted stays won’t fix major issues in the region.

The council’s planning proposal for managing short term rental accommodation – including the likes of Stayz and Airbnb as well as Byron-based business A Perfect Stay – is going before the NSW Department of Planning for Gateway Determination.

The proposal includes a cap to allow properties in all parts of the shire to have only 90 non-hosted nights offered through holiday letting arrangements each year.

Stayz corporate affairs director, Eacham Curry, recently urged the council to await the State Government’s broader regulations.

Mr Curry said the night caps would harm the region’s tourism sector and “fail to address” issues around housing affordability and availability, impacts on government resources and services and the impact on neighbourhood amenity.

Councillor Michael Lyon said these were “baseless assertions”.

“The proposed restrictions will indeed address availability because the evidence shows that long term letting provides better returns to non-resident investors compared with short-term letting, when the short term letting is done for less than 90 days per year,” Cr Lyon said.

“Greater availability of long term rentals means better affordability, this is economics 101.

“I am glad that Mr Curry acknowledges the need for registration because this is essential in ensuring that the 90-day caps are adhered to.

“We have assembled comprehensive and compelling research on the effects of STRA in Byron Shire and it is precisely this which leads us to this policy response.”

SOME holiday letting providers have argued the council’s proposed restrictions for short term rental accommodation won’t addess key problems.
SOME holiday letting providers have argued the council’s proposed restrictions for short term rental accommodation won’t addess key problems.

Colin Hussey, the CEO of A Perfect Stay, had meanwhile stressed their listings were dominated by luxury properties.

Mr Hussey said these were mostly the holiday homes of the properties’ city-dwelling owners and removing available nights wouldn’t miraculously turn a multimillion-dollar pad into an affordable home.

Cr Lyon said he’s aware the proposed restrictions are “not perfect, as no broad-based police can be”.

“But doing nothing is not an option given the research and statistics which show just how much our community is suffering due to the lack of regulation,” he said.

“Byron has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the state and Byron households spend, on average, close to half of their disposable income on rent.

“This exacerbates inequity and forces parts of our community to move out of the shire and to commute in for work.

“This in turn adds to traffic chaos, now a daily occurrence at the highway and coming through town during peak hour.”

Cr Lyon said the first priority was changing the economic viability of some holiday lets with a view to get some homes back on the long-term rental market.

“Once we have done this we can reassess in the future and potentially look at easing the restrictions in certain areas, perhaps by creating a precinct system,” he said.

“We could get nuanced and creative if the State Government has a mind to, by allowing a fixed number or percentage of dwellings to be let year round, through an approval and application system.

“What is needed right now however, is a simple, enforceable mechanism to ensure that residential zones are housing the residents and workers of this shire.

“The potential impacts on tourism of this policy are also overstated, as are the benefits of short term letting in our community.”

Only Cr Alan Hunter voted against putting the current planning proposal forward at last month’s ordinary meeting.