Councils in Airbnb crackdown

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Airbnb-style listings are booming across the region.
Camera IconAirbnb-style listings are booming across the region.

The Capes region’s two local governments have started a crackdown on rogue accommodation providers, with compliance officers now actively hunting short stays advertising online without legal approvals.

The move comes as traditional accommodation providers report a surge in potentially unlawful online listings across the Capes during the peak summer period.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said another 150 properties were added to Airbnb in the lead-up to Christmas, taking listings above the 2200 mark.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and the City of Busselton have enlisted extra personnel in recent weeks who are now taking up the complaints lodged by operators, including RAPMRR, who say a boom in short stays using websites such as Airbnb is seriously damaging the region’s economy.

The two councils and the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association have also lodged submissions to WA Parliament’s Economics and Industry Standing Committee inquiry into the sector.

The Augusta-Margaret River Shire’s submission (see Page 5) calls for action on housing affordability, and for the Government to make advertising unregistered homes online illegal — putting the onus on platforms such as Airbnb to make changes.

Chief executive Mike Archer told the Times the City of Busselton wanted a committee hearing held in Busselton.

“We’ve outlined in our submission that we support the introduction of robust, consistently-enforced and credible regulation of short-stay accommodation in residential property in WA,” he said.

“The City ... further maintains that the State itself needs to regulate at the platform level, as it would be difficult if not impossible for local level regulations to be sustainably and consistently applied.”

Capes local governments have rejected the NSW-style approach to regulation by putting a cap on the number of days properties can be let out.

Busselton also wanted WA Government support for local governments to establish where holiday homes could be regulated or banned and penalties strong enough to act as deterrents.

The MRBTA’s submission pointed to its Singapore market, saying about 25 per cent of those visitors used Airbnb-type lodgings in the Capes.

“Holiday homes have an unfair advantage over traditional accommodation in that they are not required to meet the same government regulation, or pay rates and levies consistent with the commercial nature of their operation,” it said.

“The MRBTA is supportive of approaches that seek to level the playing field between holiday homes and traditional accommodation. The MRBTA is also supportive of the proper and demonstrated enforcement of holiday home policy and regulation,” the submission said. “Holiday homes operating illegally create safety concerns for visitors, and have the potential to undermine the quality associated with the Margaret River region brand.”

Busselton planning and development services director Paul Needhan said the City was “seriously considering a shift” to tougher prosecution of unlawful short stays.

The inquiry is set to finalise its review by mid-year.

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