Shire denies drain on rentals

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Brookfield Estate, Margaret River.
Camera IconBrookfield Estate, Margaret River.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has again rejected claims holiday home approvals have driven up the region’s squeeze on affordable housing.

Social media has continued to feature a steady stream of long-term renters looking for homes or preparing to leave the region, made worse by the end of the moratorium on evictions and rent rises.

Late last month, the Shire held an emergency meeting to authorise another call for landlords, homeowners and short-stay providers to free up capacity for urgent rentals, with advertised tweaks to local planning laws designed to combat an industry push to convert houses to Airbnb-style rentals and capitalise on the region’s tourism popularity during lockdown.

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said the moves included flexibility for short-term property owners to host tenants for six months, as well as proposed changes to the Shire’s Local Planning Policy 7.

“The primary objective of the change is not to reduce the overall number of holiday homes, but to prevent a specific type of accommodation — smaller, more affordable and centrally located housing — from being removed from the long-term rental pool,” he told the Times.

But Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan has consistently claimed the Shire has played an active role in the increase in properties now listing for short stays online.

“It’s simple: call a moratorium on approving new short-stay accommodation for 12-24 months,” she said.

“In the past 12 months, approvals have increased by 46 per cent. How has this helped the problem?

“Not to mention motels and accommodation providers are being contacted asking to provide their properties as long-term rentals.

“So the Shire are turning housing into tourism accommodation, and asking tourism accommodation to turn into housing. Go figure.”

Figures provided by the Shire appeared to reflect the upward trend, but also included reissued approvals for existing operators.

About 50 short-stay approvals were issued in 2020, with 21 applications already lodged in the past three months.

“This includes 10 new holiday home applications, 10 renewals, and one application to cancel a previous holiday home approval,” Mr Logan said. Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said a promotion across multiple channels would be forthcoming.

“The Shire will also issue an appeal to approved short-stay accommodation owners,” she said.

Liberal Vasse MLA Libby Mettam noted the housing crisis was an issue for the State Government, but it had “no answers” post-election.

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