7 Nov 2017

Queenstown Council to vote on Airbnb cuts

6:30 pm on 7 November 2017

A battle is brewing between the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Airbnb operators.


Queenstown Photo: 123.rf

Councillors will tomorrow vote on a raft of measures which, if approved, would clamp down on mum-and-dad visitor accommodation operators in the district.

The measures will target homes listed on the accommodation website which are being let out for brief stays, in a bid to ease the resort's housing crisis.

According to current council rules, home owners can currently rent out their properties to short-term guests for up to 90 days a year.

But the council said the rules were poorly understood, and poorly policed.

As a result, 14 percent of all short-term stays in the district were booked through Airbnb, council figures show.

Faced with a severe housing shortage, council staff want to restrict the letting of homes in many residential parts of the district to 28 days a year.

The idea being this would lead to fewer houses listed on Airbnb and more on the rental market.

Council figures 2700 houses have been removed from the long-term rental market as a result of Airbnb.

Airbnb Australia and New Zealand head of public policy Brent Thomas said the recommendations were an infringement on individuals' property rights.

"People should be able to respectfully and responsibly share the home they own, the home they live in," he said.

"What we are seeing really concerns our community of local hosts, we would love to work constructively with the council. But let's see what happens tomorrow.

"Council is trying to scapegoat Airbnb for their failed housing policies. If they want to blame someone for why house prices are so expensive they only need to look in the mirror."

If the restrictions went ahead, councillors would have a fight on their hands, he said.

Proposal doesn't go far enough - councillor

Councillor John MacDonald, who heads the council's mayoral housing affordability taskforce, which recommend similar measures, said he did not think the proposal went far enough.

He wanted to see incentives for home owners to provide long-term rentals, alongside restrictions on short-term letting.

While the move was a step in the right direction, it would be pointless without enforcement, he said.

"This will make it simple to understand and more enforceable, but there will definitely need to be enforcement resource put into it."

Council planning policy manager Ian Bayliss said the council would take an education-first approach to the new rules, if adopted.

The restrictions would allow home owners to let their houses for 28 nights a year with providers such as Airbnb.

Anyone wanting to rent out their home for more than 28 nights would need a resource consent, thought it was unlikely such consents would be granted, he said.

"We are looking to address the issue of whole houses being [treated] as what's essentially a commercial hotel in a residential area."

To cope with the increased demand for visitor accommodation in the district, the council was also proposing a less restrictive approach to short-term options in high-density, central town and mixed business areas.

If adopted, the council would notify the public of the intended changes to the district plan, and residents would have three months to make submissions, he said.

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