General News

New rules for short term accommodation rips control off council

New short-term rental accommodation rules announced last week not only fall far short of addressing local government concerns around problems created by the fast-emerging industry, they also set back efforts to provide affordable housing in their areas.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said the new rule changes eroded councils’ planning powers by forcing them to seek permission from the State Government to set cap limits on short-term rental accommodation (STRA) in their local government areas.

“We have been telling Government that councils need better regulatory support when dealing with STRAs to ensure greater operator accountability, protect community amenity and reduce the negative impact on affordable housing, but this policy announcement actually sets all that back,” Cr Scott said.

“This new policy takes away councils’ ability to make a decision on what is the appropriate amount of short-term rental accommodation allowable in their areas.

“Councils need to balance the interests of their existing residents and pressures of housing affordability with the important jobs that are created by the tourism industry.

“If there are no limits, property owners who think they can make more on the short-term rental market are not going to put their property on the regular rental market.

“Councils have been saying for years that this policy must be supported with ongoing research to monitor local impacts on housing affordability. These concerns have only heightened in light of COVID-19, and this policy decision by the State Government does nothing to address those concerns.”

Cr Scott said local government should not be made to go through hoops to get control of excess STRA in their local areas.

“Surely common sense would tell you that those closest to the issue – councils – are best placed to deal with what is appropriate for their area,” she said.

“Instead of helping, Government has created rules that will make it much harder by forcing councils to seek amendments to the Statewide planning policy or prepare a planning proposal to effect changes, a process that can sometimes take years to resolve.”

One positive to come out of the new framework was a compulsory register of STRA operators.

“We have been pushing the Government to commit to a compulsory register since it first announced the new regulatory framework for short term rentals,” Cr Scott said.

“This register will give councils visibility of what properties are being used for short term rental accommodation and for how many nights per year.”

Cr Scott said the new rules flew in the face of assurances she’d received from Government that regional councils would retain control of the caps in their areas, and any changes should have first been flagged with LGNSW by the Government before the final policy was released.

“I am highly disappointed that has failed to happen,” she said.

“We will continue to work through these new policy changes and seek to work with the Government to effect positive change that allows councils to protect their communities, create affordable housing and support appropriate levels of short-term rentals in their areas.”