SHARING ECONOMY: Short-term holiday letting is the focus of a new study.
SHARING ECONOMY: Short-term holiday letting is the focus of a new study. Christian Morrow

Have your say on Airbnb impacts in Byron Shire

MORE than two million visitors arrive in Byron Shire each year making the town one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Australia, with visitors at times out-numbering locals by a ratio of 70 to one.

Researchers from Southern Cross University want to give Byron Shire residents a voice when it comes to the future of short-term holiday letting (STHL) in the area and have set up an online survey to gauge the community's attitude to STHL.

According to the Australian Coastal Councils Association, Byron is also one of Australia's least affordable regional rental-housing markets with 17.6 per cent of properties in the Byron Shire listed as short-term holiday letting.

The majority of these STHL are listed on online rental platforms, notably Airbnb - the largest, fastest-growing online platform.

School of Business and Tourism researcher Dr Sabine Muschter said with the impact of the sector being the subject of ongoing debate, it was important that policy makers for affordable housing and destination marketing have comprehensive, reliable and evidence-based information on their own locations.

Byron Shire Council is expected to make a formal submission to the Department of Planning and Environment in a few weeks about whether to introduce a STHL cap in the near future.

This follows the Fair-Trading Amendment (short-term rental accommodation) Bill 2018 recently passed by the NSW Government.

The bill allows hosts in NSW to rent out their accommodation for up to 365 days per year (exceptions apply for Greater Sydney), but provides an opportunity for councils to decrease the 365-day limit to no less than 180 days per year.

Dr Muschter - also a Byron Bay resident - said the SCU research project was designed to help ensure that local residents had a say when it came to decision making at local and state levels of government.

She said the survey, released this week, would allow residents to contribute their views on possible options for STHL in the shire.

The survey will also capture residents' perceptions about positive and negative impacts of Airbnb within the Byron Shire.

Before the survey was developed, 22 locals were interviewed, including councillors, Airbnb hosts, accommodation providers and "victims" of holiday lettings.

"Our initial interviews showed that most residents perceived both positive and negative impacts on the community through the recent increase in Airbnb lettings within the Byron Shire," Dr Muschter said.

"Most people weren't against it. They simply wanted more regulation to make it fair play for everyone."

Survey results will be presented to council before it makes its formal submission to the NSW Government. The project is led by Dr Deborah Che with Dr Muschter, Dr Rod Caldicott and Dr Tania von der Heidt.

To take the survey click here or at scuau.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bIOJVj8oZWjfDyB