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At a recent meeting, Byron Shire Council voted to put aside current designated residential zoning plus a proposal to divide the Shire into separate short-term holiday letting ‘precincts’ with different caps on the number of days people can let housing. Councillors voted instead to adopt a blanket 90-day cap on holiday letting across the Shire. Gone: Residential Zoning attached to Title. Result: Retrospective rezoning of all residential dwellings, forcing residents to live in a ‘mixed use’ setting. One local resident subsequently wrote: “Given Byron Council’s woeful record on compliance and enforcement, the proposals are unfortunately doomed to fail.” Short-term rental operators also appear extremely unhappy with this latest proposal. Headlines in yesterday’s Byron News and Northern Star say that holiday-letting business have slammed the Council’s proposed 90-day cap and proposed restrictions on short-term rental accommodation.

The Australian Short Term Rental Accommodation Association (ASTRA) represents those renting housing across all online platforms. At last count, ASTRA Chairman Rob Jeffress has 605 homes listed on Airbnb’s platform. Jeffress emailed his members on 25 February:

“…spurred by the AHA & TAA (Hotel associations) we are responding to growing demands from traditional accommodation providers for protectionist constraints and bans against our owners. Essentially awarding hotels, motels and bed & breakfast operators a competitive advantage. With the release of the West Australian government’s recommendations from their Short Stay Inquiry, WA now seems set to follow NSW and Tasmania in introducing property compliance and registration for STRA operators. Fortunately, we are making a difference and I thank your ASTRA directors… Right now, we need more members to amplify our voice and better protect, represent and promote your interests.”

In fact it is those, such as the cohort represented by ASTRA, who have an unfair competitive advantage, using residential housing to run commercial hotel and serviced apartment operations on a massive scale with zero constraints; hotels, motels and bed & breakfast operators adhering to the established criteria for commercial property and paying corporate rates and taxes as applicable.

Two days ago, the ASTRA Chairman posted online (see photo):

“Trish Burt your comments are entirely misleading. If you take the time to check the facts you will find ASTRA has taken a lead role in promoting regulation of Short Term Lettings across Australia.  Our submissions call for registration, compliance and safety. We also support controls and bans on irresponsible owners and guests. It's a pity your caustic comments misrepresent the truth. In terms of the properties we manage we have 24/7 security to guard against parties or noise complaints, pay for rubbish collections twice each week, assure the properties are managed professionally and the guests respect community values.”

Contrary to Mr Jeffress assertions, last September fellow ASTRA Board Member Joan Bird messaged landlords, provided a template and encouraged all to write to the NSW Department of Planning Industry & Environment, which had called for submissions:

STRA State Environmental Planning Policy - I oppose the requirement for costly complying development permits. This expensive permit will make hosting out of reach for most people who will be forced to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a permit to simply to share their home. For hosts who share their homes for a few weeks a year, this is a significant barrier to home sharing and will make hosting uneconomical. For holiday homes up and down the coast, and in the regions, these have existed for decades without these expensive permits which will end up making holidays across NSW more expensive.

Environmental Planning and Assessment (STRA) Regulation 2019 - I oppose the unprecedented requirements to introduce red tape to make costly alterations to my home before hosting, such as expensive lighting systems. Both South Australia and Tasmania state clearly that hosting is an ancillary use of an approved residential dwelling – for the vast majority of hosts, this means there are no requirements to alter home to be compliant with regulations. Put simply, if my house is approved to be safe for me and my family to live in, it’s safe for my guests….

STRA Property Register - I oppose the potentially costly, complex, and onerous STRA property register. At every stage of the consultation, registration has been considered, debated, and ultimately rejected...”

At the beginning of this week we wrote to NSW Ministers Rob Stokes, Kevin Anderson and Stuart Ayres, emphasising that we were making no apologies for plagiarising multiple Members of the US Congress. Our Ministers were asked to acknowledge Airbnb, Stayz, DestinationNSW and other online platform users’ business practices and, in particular, the use of NSW homes by unidentified, uncertified and all too frequently criminal operators. We await the Ministers’ response.


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