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Residents are effing tired of collusion between Government & STR Industry

On 20 December 2013, the Council for the City of Sydney wrote to residents in an apartment block in Bridge Street, confirming that the short-term rental of residential apartments was an “Illegal Use of Premises”. Council had put this issue to the NSW Land & Environment Court (LEC) on multiple occasions and each and every time the LEC had judged in Council’s favour. Residents in the Bridge Street building were profoundly relieved; they had faced years of abuse and serious threats from short-term rental landlords including State Members of Parliament and a Partner in Law firm ClaytonUtz. On 27 March 2015 the LEC issued Orders/PENAL NOTICE against the short-term rental cohort in the Bridge Street building.

The Council of the City of Sydney continued to uphold its “fundamental duties and responsibilities” – other short-term rental operators within the Local Government Area were receiving ‘cease and desist’ orders.

On 09 September 2015 this matter was referred to the NSW Parliament; we understand it was State Greens MP Jamie Parker who lodged the submission. The subsequent Parliamentary Inquiry was titled:

The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, including Jamie Parker, held three Hearings: one in Tweed Heads and two in Parliament House in Sydney. Committee Members are paid an allowance over and above their salaries, although payments for this Inquiry do not appear to be listed on Parliament’s 20116 records. The Manager of the Parliamentary Committee subsequently confirmed:

§ No legal advice was sought by the Members of Parliament during the process into this legislation. Also of note: § The Submission from the resident who assisted the City of Sydney in obtaining their 2015 LEC Orders/Penal Notice was marked “confidential”; were this document provided to a third party the individual who made the submission was warned that this would equate to “Contempt of Parliament”. Said individual was also denied permission to address the Parliament during the hearing process; therefore, no Hansard record that position/episode exists, § In the corridors of State Parliament, a representative from Expedia/Stayz and the legal represented from the Australian Short-Term Rental Association (ASTRA - then known as HRIA) were given advice by a senior Local Government Planning executive: Lobby Parliament to change the State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP]; if short-term rentals are declared ‘exempt development’, problem solved!

Airbnb operators contacted Greens State MP Jamie Parker, who joined them in a ‘Meetup’ at Glebe Town Hall – drinks and appetisers, (plus Hall rental no doubt) provided by the “Airbnb Action Team”. Parker went on to write: “Home owners should be given the green light to let out spare rooms for cash on Airbnb and other “sharing economy” platforms without risking hefty fines from local councils…” He then referred his followers to a Sydney Morning Herald article for which he provided an interview.

During this parliamentary inquiry period a NSW SC who specialises in ‘Criminal (environmental and planning), Local Government, Planning’ etc wrote to Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello. He cited LEC case law judgments pertaining to short-term rentals/“Illegal Use of Premises” and forewarned that “making short-term letting exempt development under the SEPP will not invalidate (residential) development consent conditions…An immediate tension will arise between the exempt development provisions of the SEPP and the existing development consents, which prohibit short-term letting”. In 2019 this same SC went on to represent a short-term rental operator in the LEC against Newcastle City Council – it appears that no previous LEC short-term rental judgments were cited in that case.

Fast forward to 2021: NSW Planning Minister Robert Stokes MP used ministerial discretion and single-handedly altered the SEPP:

(Short-term Rental Accommodation) 2021 “Exempt Development…The general requirements for short-term rental accommodation are – the dwelling must have been lawfully constructed to be used for the purposes of residential accommodation…”

In the leadup to the last State Election, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts “promised Byron Shire that ‘he would be open to all solutions, including limiting the number of weekends that were available for renting as a holiday let’; the importance of affordable housing in the region and support for the approach by Byron Shire has been confirmed by former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and current Premier Dominic Perrottet”. On 14 December Byron’s Echo reported: “State government breaks election commitment to Byron on 90 day rental cap.” The Guardian reported: “NSW government strips Byron council of authority to cap short-term rentals.

Local resident/(retired) Commander of the NSW Police Force homicide squad wrote:

“This is unbelievable, talk about being hood-winked at the last minute! The Government just doesn’t get it, ignorance at the highest level. Let’s appease the STHL industry and ignore the local community, it’s just outrageous on so many levels. The Politicians rant on about the shortage of long-term rental properties, it’s not a coincidence that the growth of STHL has led to this shortage across the State. The trouble is I questioned the Labour (sic) Candidate for Clarence about this issue and his reply was that he supports the notion that people can do whatever they like with their own homes…so what chance do our communities have? Let alone the future of traditional long term rental availability???”

Meanwhile, other NSW Labor MPs are campaigning for a ban on secret rent bidding, while profiteering enormously from the conversion of housing into their personal Airbnb rentals.

Last Wednesday, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment officially announced it would be changing its position on the Byron Shire and taking recommendations instead from the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC).

The NSW South Coast is in an identical situation. About Regional reported last week that proposals put by Eurobodalla Shire to address its burgeoning homelessness crisis had also been knocked back by State Government.

On 6 December A Perfect Stay/Boutique Stays’ (former Economic Development Manager Byron Shire Council) Sarah Workman emailed NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and NSW Government Senior Policy Adviser Callum Fountain re Byron Council’s proposed 90-day cap on short-term rentals. Back in August, ASTRA raised $40,000 to fight the Byron Shire’s proposed cap and member, A Perfect Stay’s Colin Hussey,has lobbied State Government long and hard against any restrictions on the use of homes as commercial holiday rentals.

But wait! The NSW State Government has referred the ‘Byron issue’ to its so-called Independent Planning Commission – and the ABC reportsthat one can, again, ‘have one’s say’, but apparently so confident is the expected decision by State Government in support of industry over residents that on 01 December Newcastle-based Alloggio group “acquired A Perfect Stay Pty Ltd and Boutique Stays Pty Ltd (together “A Perfect Stay”) for $11.0million…the Acquisition timing provides Alloggio with peak season revenue…with a portfolio of over 2,200 holiday properties under management.”

Two days ago, former Byron Shire Mayor and Member of the NSW Legislative Council Jan Barham wrote a letter. (She has been opposing short-term rentals and working for over 20-years for the upholding of regulations.) Her outrage was palpable. Today, Christmas Eve, Byron residents met to voice their deep concerns about homelessness and the housing availability/affordability crisis in their area. Pray tell, who do our Legislators work for and to whom are they accountable? How can one cast a vote at the March 2023 NSW State Elections confident that any of our parliamentary representatives will act in the interest of residents plus uphold what is the fundamental #Right2Housing? If the main stream media would like to report on this, plus the fact that NSW Planning and Ministers knew that back in 2014 that NSW/ACT had already lost 216,000 homes to short-term rentals, go right ahead. Oh, Merry Christmas!


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