[Australia] Comments to Byron Shire Council on STRA Restrictions

The Asia Travel Technology Industry Association (ATTIA) has submitted comments to the Byron Shire Council (New South Wales) regarding its proposal to reduce unhosted short-term rental accommodation (STRA) from 180-days to 90-days in most parts of the Shire.

Download our Media Statement here.

While ATTIA appreciates the Council’s attempts to balance demands on various fronts, we strongly believe that a 90-day unhosted STRA limit is unlikely to meet the Council’s objective of returning rentals to the housing market. At worst, it could irreversibly harm the Shire’s tourism ecosystem and economy.

1.) Does not tackle underinvestment in affordable housing

A long-term solution to the Shire’s housing concerns involves creating and incentivizing affordable housing, as opposed to harsh measures which will do little to reduce house prices. According to the ‘Give Me Shelter’ report by Housing All Australians, while the country’s population grew 25% from 2001-2016, total stock of social housing fell by 2.5%. The proportion of social housing relative to all dwellings has also fallen from 6% in 1996 to 4% today. It is hence imperative that the Council re-examines the housing crisis holistically, instead of scapegoating the STRA industry. We call on the Council to consider how it can support the “National Housing Accord” to reverse decades of underinvestment in affordable housing.

2.) Uncertainty around economic and social impacts

Despite greatly disagreeing with the Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) report, the Council has selectively relied on parts of the report to justify the 90-day proposal. ATTIA believes that a major STRA policy change cannot be justified by a selective reading of the report. Moreover, while the 2019 EIA claims there were 5,250 unhosted STRA properties, this is at odds with the 1,136 unhosted properties registered in 2022 with NSW Fair Trading. We humbly ask the Council to examine this discrepancy to avoid formulating a solution which does not address on-the-ground realities.

3.) Targeted properties are not affordable housing

Unhosted STRA properties outside ‘mapped precincts’ tend to be in priority tourism clusters, which are unlikely to be affordable. The proposal also mistakenly assumes that the short-term rental market is static, whereas hosts may rent out properties at various peak periods throughout the year. Given the Shire’s numerous high-profile events which draw visitors from all over Australia, it is vital to ensure sufficient STRA availability during peak periods.

4.) Limitation of accommodation types

The proposal risks limiting the types of accommodation available for travelers who may need to access STRA. For instance, families with children, those traveling as a group, and those who need specific amenities or the flexibility that STRA provides them.

As such, ATTIA urges the Council to consider the perspectives of travel platforms in its assessment to minimize further disruption to the Shire’s economic recovery.