Short-Term Holiday Letting - Private Member's Statement

7th March 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 19:55 :07 ): A parliamentary inquiry into short-term holiday letting throughout the State delivered its final report to the Government in October last year. The Government's response, I understand, will be delivered formally next month. While I am quite prepared to wait for that response, I will inform the House about some of the impacts of short-term holiday letting in my electorate of Lake Macquarie. From the outset, I and each of the constituents who have spoken to me about the rapid growth in short?term holiday letting on new media such as Airbnb and Stayz do not wish to see it stopped. But it is clear that there needs to be some form of regulation so this industry can continue to grow in a way that is harmonious with our local communities.

I commend the inquiry panel, which was chaired by the member for Oatley and earlier by the member for East Hills. The committee has recommended that a rigorous and effective compliance system must be developed within existing planning legislation but warned against any over?regulation. There are hundreds of residential home owners in my electorate who are letting their homes or spare rooms out to short-term visitors. They are earning a supplementary income from empty or under-utilised assets, and I have no problem with this type of "sharing economy" in principle. But most of these homes are in residential areas and there is a valid argument that they disadvantage traditional tourist accommodation providers such as hotels, motels and resorts.

Equally, there is a valid argument from some neighbours of those properties that a lack of regulation is turning their once quiet residential areas into something else—a transient tourist destination. I recently spoke to a constituent at Coal Point on the shores of Lake Macquarie who now has homes either side of his property that are leased to overnight or short-term tenants through the online accommodation service Airbnb. One of those properties is leasing for as much as $650 a night. The five-bedroom home can accommodate 10 people, but when the tenants have friends around for the day there can be double that number enjoying the home and its tranquil waterfront. My constituent tells me he would not care so much if the home's owner was on site when paying visitors were staying. He says that if it was operated as a traditional bed and breakfast where owners live on site while still welcoming in a weary traveller problems may not arise.

His other permanent neighbours say, "It just doesn't feel like our neighbourhood any more. We're getting a new neighbour almost every day, while activity and noise has increased dramatically". They report that guests at the homes are not always causing trouble, but trouble with drunk and noisy visitors does occasionally occur. Fortunately, those instances appear to be rare, but there have been occasions when groups of young people have rented one of these homes for a few nights, have held wild parties, have damaged the property and have made life very miserable for surrounding neighbours. This type of thing has not been limited to the traditional tourist towns such as those on the State's North Coast or on Queensland's Gold Coast; they are happening in normal, once quiet suburban streets throughout my electorate and, I dare say, throughout most others.

Last month, Lake Macquarie City Council considered amendments to local planning guidelines, which would permit short-term rental accommodation, subject to certain provisions. Under its draft proposal, the owners of properties in residential areas would not need any new consent to lease or part-lease their homes or spare rooms, but there is a lot of confusion and angst about how the council should regulate or deal with this burgeoning industry. While the council has deferred a decision until the State Government responds to the parliamentary inquiry's report, it has formally encouraged the Government to initiate a statewide policy approach. The fact is that current arrangements are fragmented, confused and need to be clarified or regulated in a way which identifies potential problems and solves them.

People living in strata-managed buildings are also growing increasingly concerned, not only about the number of transient neighbours they now have but also because their strata levies are increasing as insurance companies are raising the cost of insurance policies on buildings which are housing some Airbnb-style operations. Some strata committees have put an outright ban on short-term stays, although some residents are continuing to operate outside of the rules. The rapid expansion of this industry and its popularity have been significant in my electorate, and not only in areas that might traditionally have been considered popular tourist destinations. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary's electorate of Kiama would have many examples of this. We have seen this type of short-term accommodation banned in cities such as Berlin and New York and it appears that other major cities throughout the world may follow. I am by no means certain that that is the appropriate response, but I am convinced that reform and regulation is needed sooner rather than later.

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