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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Tamsin Rose

NSW government expects 12 councils to call for strict caps on short-term rentals

Cape Byron lighthouse above Wategos Beach houses
Cape Byron lighthouse above houses at Wategos beach. NSW planning minister Paul Scully is preparing to make a ruling on a cap on short-term rentals. Photograph: Dallas Stribley/Getty Images

The New South Wales government expects a dozen councils will push for strict caps on Airbnbs and other short-term rentals once the planning minister, Paul Scully, makes a final ruling for the Byron shire.

Scully met mayors in the state’s northern rivers region on Thursday and spoke about advice provided by the state’s independent planning body to allow the holiday hotspot to place a strict cap on short-term rentals in an effort to see stock returned to the long-term market amid a housing crisis.

He told the meeting of regional mayors and key planning staff that he and the department were working through the recommendations and expected it would be considered by 12 other councils experiencing similar pressures.

A number of mayors in the room told the minister they too would like the option to control the caps as they were the people best placed to understand the pressures in their areas.

The minister will first deal with Byron and the commission’s recommendations for the coastal area, before turning to caps for other regions, as part of a review of the state’s short-term rental policies later this year.

The Byron shire mayor, Michael Lyon, welcomed the visit from Scully – the minister’s first to regional NSW – and said the department had already been in contact with the council about ways to implement recommendations.

“It’s just a case of how,” Lyon said. “The department of planning is working with our staff. The main focus is on the [recommendations] that need to be sorted most quickly.”

He said council and department staff were working on how to implement a 60-day cap from both the local and state government levels.

The minister has yet to make a formal determination.

Guardian Australia this week revealed the number of properties listed as short-term rentals across the state has surged by 42% since 2021 to exceed 45,000 and the 2,440 properties registered in the Byron shire account for 16% of all private dwellings.

Mayors from other parts of the state including the Blue Mountains and Snowy Monaro have expressed interest in being able to impose similar caps, despite warnings from Airbnb that such a measure could cause an economic hit.

The independent body Local Government NSW said the state government needed to allow different caps for different regions and warned against a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Councils must be able to determine where STRA [short-term rental accommodation] is permitted in their LGA and the number of days that properties can be let,” a spokesperson said.

“We want to see the NSW government step aside from controlling councils in this way, and provide greater flexibility for councils to be able to tailor STRA to the needs of their individual local areas.”

The minister also heard from other mayors during the meeting about housing affordability, zoning and planning approval issues that have all been heightened by the catastrophic 2022 floods.

The Tweed mayor, Chris Cherry, said flood recovery was still high on the list for all mayors in the region, as well as improving the development approvals systems.

“We all have a housing emergency, a housing crisis,” she said. “He was taking issues on notice. I thought it was a really great start.”

The Ballina mayor, Sharon Calderwater, agreed that it was “really good to have him visit the region” so quickly after being appointed to the portfolio.

“He’s hit the ground running with this visit,” she said.

A spokesperson for the minister said the trip reinforced the “importance the NSW government has towards the region’s reconstruction”.

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