9 Nov 2017

Airbnb concerned about Queenstown crackdown

10:38 am on 9 November 2017

Airbnb says the company has deep concerns about a Queenstown proposal to slash the number of days a residential property can be let.


Queenstown. Photo: 123RF

A stoush is brewing over a plan by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to slice the number of nights some homeowners can rent out their houses on short-term platforms like Airbnb.

The council said it is trying to tackle the resort's rental crisis - but Airbnb said it has serious concerns about both the plan, and the process.

Right now, anyone who owns a property in Queenstown can rent out the whole place on a platform like Airbnb or Book-a-Bach for up to 90 days a year. The council yesterday voted to slash that by more than a third, to just 28 days a year.

The plan is subject to public consultation and would apply only to homes in low-density areas outside the city centre.


Queenstown Photo: 123.rf

A councillor, John McDonald, said the change was designed to deal with a serious infrastructure problem in Queenstown.

"We have a problem with places for the people who work and live in the town to live. To allow a lot of the houses in Queenstown to be empty and earning money from renting them to visitors ... where are the workers going to live? Where is the community? What's the community spirit going to be like?"

But Airbnb is up in arms about the idea. Its Australasia head of public policy, Brent Thomas, said hosts - and the company itself - were genuinely worried.

"Yes, there are deep concerns - both in terms of the substance and in terms of the process. Queenstown is a tourism town - it relies on tourism, it thrives on tourism ... we're looking forward to working through this in a constructive way, but there are some real concerns about where the council's landed right now."

Mr Thomas said companies like his were being scapegoated for spiralling rents.

"It looks and feels like council is perhaps looking for a simple answer to a complex problem that existed before Airbnb was even created back in 2008."

The head of Harcourts' Queenstown branch, Kelvin Collins, said it was good to see the council trying something to bring rents down.

But, he said this plan would mainly affect holiday homes on the periphery of the district - and targeting them would not fix the problem.

"I suppose the target here is to free up more long-term accommodation, but if they're targeting the person who has a holiday home, who's renting it for three of four months a year, that person still wants the freedom of using his holiday home whenever he wants it, so he's not going to rent it to a long-term person."

The public still have to be consulted on any measures the council might take.