Regulating Launceston's short-term accommodation 'a backward step' says Airbnb

Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh said everybody shared the benefits from the “tremendous growth” of the Airbnb community in Tasmania. Source: Airbnb Australia
Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh said everybody shared the benefits from the “tremendous growth” of the Airbnb community in Tasmania. Source: Airbnb Australia

Airbnb’s head of public policy ANZ Brent Thomas says any move towards “more unnecessary red tape” would be a backward step for a state that has led the nation with fair rules for home sharing.

But the City of Launceston will consider creating a policy paper on regulating accommodation providers, including the sharing economy of Airbnb and Stayz, at Monday’s council meeting.

The state government implemented statewide regulations on July 1 designed to make it easier for people to legally operate short-term rental accommodation.

However Alderman Darren Alexander has put forward a notice of motion asking council officers to investigate existing regulation governing hotels, motels, Airbnb, Stayz and similar accommodation.

His motion also asked for advice on “the ability of the council to administer regulation of Airbnb and Short Stayz and similar accommodation places.”

Ald Alexander has questioned whether the freedom given to share economy operators was a disincentive for investment in hotel and motel accommodation.

“For the first time, Tasmania now has common sense, consistent rules for home sharing that protect the rights of people right across Tasmania to respectfully share their own home,” Mr Thomas said.

“Any restrictions could hurt the local tourism industry and put local jobs at risk.”

The Airbnb chief said the whole community was benefiting from the changes, with more than 4000 listings in Tasmania with the average amount earned $7000.

Meanwhile Stayz spokeswoman Simone McDermid said additional regulation on the short-term rental accommodation sector in Launceston would hurt the “booming tourist economy that is driving economic uplift and new jobs in the region”.

“Like local governments around Tasmania, Stayz recently participated in a long consultation process with the state government about these new planning regulations and their implementation,” she said.

“As a result, Stayz does not support any additional regulation on short-term rental accommodation, beyond what is contained in the brand-new code that is to be enforced by local government.”

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In the council’s meeting agenda director of development services Leanne Hurst said the statewide planning provisions “significantly deregulated” the sector. 

“Many scenarios no longer need planning approval, for example letting your house while you are on holiday, or letting less than four bedrooms in your house,” she said.

“These changes appear to be increasing the supply of accommodation on the market and also reduce the ability for council to regulate the sector.

“Many operators who previously required permits will now not require them, significantly reducing the compliance burden on council.”

Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the sharing economy was here to stay and it needed to be embraced.

“We know that there will be challenges, but we believe that our regulatory regime gets the balance right,” he said.

 “Ideally, a consistent set of rules for the sharing economy should apply across the state, however, any council can make their views known regarding the rules through the process conducted by the Tasmanian Planning Commission.”