HOUSING GOES TO THE DOGS IN NSW
Late November, and the folk at Byron Shire Council held a Planning meeting to consider ‘Staff Reports – Sustainable Environment and Economic’…Impacts of and management options for short term rental accommodation (STRA) (Agenda item 13.21). Many areas presently zoned, and dwellings constructed, certified and sold as Residential, would now be volunteered by Council to State Government as ‘STRA 365 day areas’. The link on Council’s website to the areas mapped out no longer functions. The Agenda did note: “Tourist and visitor accommodation is prohibited in residential zones under Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014, which raises implications for the legality of many dwellings predominantly used for STRA in Byron Shire at the current time…the number of STRA properties online have now returned to higher than pre COVID times, and most are booked for the 20/21 holiday season and beyond. There are many stories circulating about displaced local families, individuals and key workers being evicted from local housing.”
The Minutes of said Byron Shire Council reads that Council: “Agrees to amend the planning proposal to include precinct areas that permit non-hosted STRA for 365 days in those areas that up (due to Council’s failure to enforce residential zoning) have already been taken almost exclusively for STRA, and 90 days for those areas that have not. These precinct areas are shown in the maps in Attachment 1(#E2020/89860) with the exception of the Brunswick Heads map, which is to be amended and replaced with a map that deletes the 365 day area from land west of Tweed Street…Authorises staff to submit an amended planning proposal to the Department of Industry and Environment for Gateway determination that satisfies item 2…. The motion was put to the vote and declared carried by Council.
The Byron area also has many non-compliant ‘structures’ being rented as tourist/visitor accommodation. Three weeks later, and Byron Councillors and Planners considered a Review of Planning Controls for Rural Tourist Accommodation (Report No. 13.8). The Motion was carried. Staff to prepare a planning proposal to amend Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014, to accord with the recommendations of the Review of Planning Controls for Rural Tourist Accommodation in Attachment 1 (E2020/94209). You guessed it – the link on Council’s website, again, leads nowhere.
The plan is to surrender Residential zones in the Byron Shire to Airbnb, Expedia (Stayz) plus an unlimited number of online booking platforms. And other homes in the Shire? Council recommends ‘limiting’ short-term rental activity to 90 days per year: let’s imagine 90 days rented via Airbnb, 90 days rented via Expedia, 90 days via Booking.com, 90 days via Agoda, 90 days through a local agent, and around one goes. How will Council monitor this 90 day limit? A 90 day ‘limit’ equates to all weekends/holidays across the Shire for all remaining housing. One suspects this is Council’s way of completely relinquishing any need for oversight on housing.
Byron STR operator, A Perfect Stay, lists 282 homes as holiday rentals, 164 of them via Airbnb. A Perfect Stay now employs former Byron Shire Tourism Officer Sarah Workman. In a letter to the Byron Echo, Workman stated that the company, “is actively advocating against Council’s policy on holiday letting…where short-term rentals would operate for 90 days per year, instead of the current 365”. (Byron Echo, page 9.) And Byron’s John Gudgeon, President of Holiday Letting Organisation, also wrote to The Echo (page 4): “Importantly…all residential dwellings are (and always were) permitted to engage in STRA without any requirement to apply (for Development Approval). It is a standard permitted use of a residential property, full stop.” Seems if one repeats a falsehood often enough, it must somehow be true?
Meanwhile, NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson MP recently wrote that the NSW State Government’s plans and reforms contain a proposed regulatory framework that “…acknowledge(s) and protect(s) the rights of private property owners. It does so by recognising that lot owners have the right to utilise their lots as they see fit.”
Minister Anderson’s statement would seem to be condoning, under his ‘Better Regulation’ preferred regime, that any residential dwelling across the State can be used for whatever purpose: home, hotel, hostel, abattoir, bar, bakery, brothel, café, car wash, church, dry-cleaners, day care centre, hydroponic (drug)/crop and distribution centre, panel beaters etc. Yes, indeed, any type of commercial activity, as might be the ‘owner’s right’ to utilise their property as they see fit.
No one is under any illusion that it is, and has been for many years, the clear intent of Ministers of the NSW Parliament to prioritise the financial goals on multi-billion dollar online booking platforms over the proprietary rights of residential Title Deed holders plus the fundamental right of every citizen to safe, secure, affordable housing.
Residents in the US are fighting back against Airbnb. Today, Byron residents are concerned that there will be a COVID outbreak with the massive influx of tourists into their area over Christmas and New Year.
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits
Neighbours not Strangers