Short-stay report given warm welcome

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Terry Redman
Camera IconTerry Redman Credit: The West Australian, Sharon Smith

The region’s biggest accommodation provider group has welcomed last week’s parliamentary report into the online short-stay market as “comprehensive and effective”.

Released last Thursday, the WA Economics and Industry Standing Committee’s final report addressed an increase in complaints about unregistered Airbnb-style holiday homes dodging local government regulations and requirements.

The report said Airbnb landlords would need to pay a registration fee, and property owners within strata schemes could be prevented from renting out homes for short-term gain.

The Levelling the Playing Field report also recommended the State Government establish an inter-departmental working group and form a Statewide registration scheme including centralised costs and individual tracking numbers.

The move would put the onus back on State Government to enforce industry-wide standards, managing fines and complaints, and liaising with local governments.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said the actions would protect accommodation providers, jobs, and local economies.

“This report will provide planning and policy makers with a road map of how to bring fairness to home sharing and how to protect small business, affordable housing and jobs in the Margaret River region,” she said.

Other holiday homes companies in the region also gave the report a tick.

David Moyes, from Dunsborough-based Private Properties, said income from centralised registration could fund enforcement.

“Currently some councils require registration, others don’t, and those who do each have their own compliance requirements for holiday homes,” he said.

“At the end of the day it just makes sense for everyone to be playing by the same rules.”

WA HomeStay’s Amanda Walker said holiday home owners and managers had to “do the right thing and register their properties”.

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman, who called for the inquiry, said the sticking point would be enforcement once the Government decided how it would act on the findings.

“This is the heart of the issue,” he told the Times.

“If (operators) don’t choose to sign up, or you can’t force them to sign up, or they are reluctant to sign up, we’ll be where we are now,” he said.

Mr Redman said his committee realised the complexity of the short-stay issue the longer the inquiry ran.

“It surprised us all,” he said.

“The feedback I’ve had out of my area is generally positive. “It’s now for Government to respond and indicate what they support.”

While broadly welcoming the report and calling it a “step closer to fair and progressive rules for home sharing in WA”, Airbnb Australia and New Zealand head of public policy Brent Thomas said the company was concerned about certain recommendations. “If somebody happens to live in a strata building, they should not be treated as a second-class citizen,” he said.

“They should have the same right to share their home as somebody in a free-standing home.”

Mr Thomas said he supported registration requirements, but wanted to make sure any costs involved would not create a barrier to home sharing.

The report is now with Planning Minister Rita Saffioti.

The WA Planning Commission said the findings would be considered as it “progresses a tourism planning position statement for further consultation with industry and the wider community”.

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