NSW government calls for more input on Airbnb laws

The New South Wales government has said it needs more time before giving home-sharing services like Airbnb the green light to operate in the state.

Six months after a parliamentary inquiry into home-sharing services such as Airbnb, the New South Wales government has said it needs more input from the community and industry to avoid legislative "knee-jerk reactions".

In a joint statement, NSW Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts and Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean said community and industry feedback on options was needed to identify appropriate regulations for short-term holiday letting as part of its response to recommendations made by NSW Parliament Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning, following its public inquiry on the Adequacy of Regulation of Short Term Holiday Letting in October last year.

The NSW government on Thursday announced it would be imposing new rules on property owners who let out spare rooms or entire homes, however.

"This is not about consultation for consultation's sake, this is about engaging the people of NSW in developing new legislation," Roberts said. "The NSW government, like the committee, is dedicated to resolving regulation for short-term holiday letting for everyone."

The minister said it was a "sensible" move to take time on such a complex issue, and that the government will be releasing an options paper next month on the matter.

The government was due to provide a more detailed response after the inquiry into the booming short-term letting market recommended that sites such as Airbnb and Stayz should operate with restrictions or penalties that are in place for party houses.

It has given "qualified" support to the call, saying it will consider the need for thresholds on how many days a property could be leased for and how many bedrooms a home could have before a development application was required.

Currently, only 12 NSW councils have rules that allow home owners to let their properties for short stays and the thresholds defining short-term rentals vary from council to council.

In the meantime, those who are struggling with poor neighbours or party houses resulting from short-term renting practises could still be penalised under current laws, Roberts said.

"We need to find what will work best for the people of NSW," Kean added. "We don't want a holiday accommodation market that's so over-regulated it puts people off coming here, but the rights of residents who live near these properties must be considered too."

Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh welcomed the chance for further consultation on the issue.

"The NSW government is absolutely right in making moves to crack down on bad behaviour," McDonagh said. "We will happily stand beside them to support regulations which ensure people's rights to respectfully and responsibly share their homes are protected."

As of March 2017, Airbnb boasted over 40,000 listings in NSW, with hosts earning an average amount to date of AU$4,400.

Additionally, more than 80 percent of the state's listings are of owner occupiers offering up space in their primary residences.

In 2016, there were more than 30 million trips at Airbnb listings worldwide, the company said, noting that significant property damage -- that is, claims that were reimbursed under Airbnb's Host Guarantee program -- was reported as occurring 0.009 percent of the time.

"In the last year alone, Airbnb guests contributed more than AU$750 million to local businesses across NSW, supporting more than 4,450 local jobs. The announcement is a step closer to continuing this economic growth and diversifying tourism across the state," McDonagh added.

"With the vast majority of NSW listings located outside traditional hotel districts, our guests live like locals, spending money at neighbourhood cafes, shops, and restaurants not normally visited by tourists. In fact, in 2015-16, around half of the 40,000 Airbnb listings in NSW were outside the greater Sydney region and located in neighbourhoods across regional NSW. This includes listings in popular Airbnb guest destinations such as Byron Bay, Nowra, Newcastle, and Wollongong."

Previously, McDonagh said that one of the biggest issues the online accommodation startup faces globally is the different interpretation on a federal, state, and local government level of what home-sharing actually means.

"Sometimes not only from city to city, but council to council and street to street -- you can live on one side of the street and the person that lives on the other side of the street that's in a different council speaks to a different council officer or a different ranger and gets a different answer in relation to sharing their home," he said at the time.

"Australians have been sharing their homes, whether it be their holiday homes or otherwise, for hundreds of years and they'll continue to do it and we'll continue to work with government at a federal, state, and local government level to help them get down that path.

"A lot of it is just in misinformation."

Airbnb earned itself a $31 billion valuation last month, after raising an oversubscribed $1 billion in a Series F capital raise.

With AAP

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