NSW to regulate Airbnb but promises greater powers for strata bodies

The New South Wales government looks set to allow home owners to rent out spare rooms and entire homes using Airbnb and similar sites but has committed to giving strata corporations greater powers to deal with problems in apartment blocks.

The state government on Wednesday released its long-awaited response to last year’s parliamentary inquiry into short-term holiday letting, offering “qualified support” to changes that would see the industry regulated in NSW for the first time.

It has offered early support for exemptions from planning and development restrictions that would allow the short-term letting of spare rooms and empty properties that do not exceed undefined “impact thresholds”.

The government will now release a paper canvassing options for regulating the booming sector, prompting a fresh round of consultation.

The NSW government has, however, made a firm commitment to give strata corporations greater powers to deal with “adverse behaviour” from properties being used as party houses.

Currently, only 12 NSW councils allow home owners to let their properties for short stays. Other councils have actively punished those using the services.

The regulation of Airbnb has been divisive.

Many groups viewed a relaxed form of regulation of Airbnb and other providers as a positive way to grow tourism, boost local economies and make better use of under-utilised assets.

But critics said the flourishing of Airbnb and others would drive up rental prices, disrupt neighbours and give the sector an unfair advantage over hotels and other traditional accommodation providers.

Similar debates have prompted heavier regulation of the sector abroad, including in New York, Amsterdam and London.

The planning minister, Anthony Roberts, said many of the recommendations were supported but deferring a final decision to allow more consultation was “sensible” on a “complex issue like this”.

That’s despite an exhaustive parliamentary inquiry last year, which took submissions from most of the stakeholders and produced a 100-page report.

“The inquiry recommendations make sense but the regulation of short-term letting needs broader engagement with the industry and the community to establish a model that enables it to continue to flourish and innovate whilst ensuring the amenity and safety of users and the wider community are protected,” Roberts said.

“It’s sensible to take time on a complex issue like this, which is why we are releasing an options paper next month.”

The state government has also committed to investigating the disparity between regulations of the traditional hotel sector and short-term holiday letting, to ensure they are “aligned, fit for purpose and focused on consumer and community safety and amenity”.

The government also pledged to prepare advice for councils and the community outlining the new regulations and implement a “communication and monitoring program”. It also supported a recommendation that councils be responsible for communicating with landowners about their rights and obligations.

The innovation and better regulation minister, Matt Kean, said the regulation needed to balance the sector’s ability to attract tourists with the rights of residents living nearby.

“While short-term holiday letting, if properly managed and respected by all parties, can be a boost to the local economy, the need to protect people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes is equally important,” Kean said.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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