Holiday Letting and the IPC Decision

April 28th, 2023

Who said bureaucracies are boring and predictable? Last week the IPC (independent Planning Commission) came out with a ruling on the ongoing Airbnb debate that has surprised everyone, shocked a few, and dismayed others. However, it is not what either council or the HL industry wanted, but what exactly are they saying?

For those new to this ongoing debate, a quick catch-up: In November 2021 NSW planning introduced a 180-day limit to Holiday Letting throughout the state. Byron Council wanted more and asked for a 90-day limit, which they got. But then pollies in Macquarie Street reversed their decision and gave it to a panel at the IPC to make expert recommendations back to the government. The commission held a two-day consultative inquiry in Byron Bay and delivered its decision last week. Interestingly, it now has a new government to report to. Hard to say if that will have any bearing.

The Ruling

Basically, the IPC has not caved into either Council or the Holiday Let industry. The recommendation to limit Holiday Letting to a maximum of 60 days per annum instead of the requested 90 days, seems like a win for the council and the anti-HL lobby. But that is a simplistic assumption. They want legislation on STRA (Short Term Rental Accommodation or Holiday Letting) to be a lot more nuanced and prescriptive. It is an interesting recommendation and worth taking the time to understand.

The ruling came with 12 recommendations in all. You can download the whole copy here. But here is an attempt to simplify the main recommendations:

  1. The IPC agrees that it is to the community’s benefit to limit the growth of non-hosted STRA properties. To do this it would be best to make the maximum rental days to be 60, not 90. It accepts that the Byron Shire has more STRA houses than the average – 8.5% of total housing stock or approx. 1300 houses.
  2. However, the plan as proposed by BSC would have too much negative impact on the local economy, and agrees the STRA industry needs to be better regulated.
  3. BSC wanted to have certain precincts (Wategos, Belongil, Byron CBD, and Beachside Suffolk Park) be allowed to HL for 365 days per year. The IPC considered this unfair and difficult to enforce.
  4. Properties that want to conduct non-hosted STRA for 365 days will need to apply for a Development Application and be licensed. The process should be streamlined and efficient and, on a case, -by-case basis. Levies can be imposed so the HL industry can contribute back to the community.
  5. The panel urgently encourages Byron Council to release more land for housing. Byron needs to work more with NRRC to deliver more urgent housing and do better for renters.
  6. The STRA industry needs to be visible to the community and other stakeholders, consistent with the principles of open government and compliance monitoring.

Good planning

The main difficulty with this proposal is the council suddenly finding the capacity to deliver STRA-led DA approvals in a ‘streamlined, efficient and timely way’. Normal standard housing approvals are currently taking the council ten months or so to process. It should be no more than a 40-day turnaround as prescribed by NSW Planning Dept.

Excuse my cynicism on this matter. I foresee that Byron Shire is only able to enforce the statewide 180-day limit for some time. BSC will need to write the regulations and adapt them to the DCP (Development Control Plan). The IPC was probably being too polite to highlight this as an issue.

The IPC verdict has basically lobbed the ball back into the Council’s court. They are saying that their proposal was not good enough and to go back to the drawing board and come up with better regulation that keeps STRA in balance, and allows the industry to function but at the same time insists that it pays its way.

Hard to know in hindsight how effective it was, but many of these policy proposals were first tabled by Cr Mark Swivel. His submission to the IPC incorporated many of the suggestions that they finally adopted. He copped a lot of criticism and social media ridicule for not coming out and blindly supporting the council’s proposal. I think he has been vindicated.

Housing matters

It is also necessary to reiterate one major point that the IPC report emphasised on numerous occasions. That is the Byron Shire Council needs to lift its game on supplying new and affordable housing URGENTLY. The next article in this newsletter, Byons Housing Scorecard coincidentally is about this topic and is complimentary to what they are saying. Here is an excerpt from the report that clearly states this. Will Byron Council take this instruction to heart?

Clause 192: The Commission is also not convinced of the practical capacity of Byron Shire’s Residential Strategy to facilitate full delivery of Byron Shire’s required future dwellings. In its presentation to the Commission during their meeting on 10 February 2023, the Department identified that “n additional 4,522 implied dwellings are required in Byron Shire LGA by 2041 to accommodate future population-driven demand and noted that “here are significant constraints with some of the investigation areas identified in the Residential Strategy” and the Department’s Planning Delivery Unit’s review of the Residential Strategy had recommended “further work be undertaken before it could be endorsed.

4 Replies to “Holiday Letting and the IPC Decision”

  1. a good read , clearly like with most of these issues in Byron shire , council has no long term plan , why has the old hospital site been unused for over 6 years ? council is clearly picking low hanging fruit and not looking at the bigger issue with housing supply as noted above .

  2. This article is really just spin and poorly informed. It neglects the history of the issue and how Council and the community were boxed in to the planning proposal in its final form.

    Many including myself, my Councillor colleagues and community members advocated for this type of solution previously and during the hearing, but only Cr Swivel wrote a letter to the minister accusing us of being “ignorantly anti-business” and “self-indulgent”, rather than discussing these views as part of the debate. Further, if you read his letter, he never suggested this type of solution to the planning minister, but rather that we drop it altogether and get our own “policy house in order”, and completely backed Astra’s version of events, complete with their rubbery statistics around job losses which have been shown to be blatant misrepresentations.

    What became clear through the hearing is that we do have our policy house in order, and are way ahead of the curve when it comes to future planning for housing. The call from the commission is not how you characterise it at all Michael, but actually urging the State and Federal Governments to support Council in its endeavours and instigate the urgent reforms required to address and alleviate the housing crisis across the country.

    Nice try though.

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