Noosa’s Short Stay Accommodation sector is laying golden eggs for a few, mostly distant investors, while distorting the economy, including the housing sector, some restaurants and health providers unable to operate at full capacity.
Comparing STA statistics from Noosa with the average of 43 European cities surveyed by the United Nations* shows the depth of SSL’s entrenchment and impact here.
Noosa’s STA density – the ratio of Short Stay to total dwellings – is three times the average for the European cities.
Noosa’s STA occupancy rate in 2022 was 29 per cent higher than the European average, and much higher at peak times.
Noosa’s STA owners’ rent collection as a proportion of Gross Regional Product is five times higher than Europe’s average.
Who wins from Noosa’s shadow hotel industry?
STA investors – the big winners are the investors, the vast majority of them a long way from here. They collected $178m in 2022, about three times more than if they had kept their properties in Long Term rent.
STA property managers – the property managers whose renting and leasing businesses have been re-invigorated, and the letting agents who have established new ones.
Some Local businesses – The restaurateurs, food and beverage sellers, and the spa and well-being entrepreneurs benefitting from local spending of about $50m of the collected STA rent. But as 86 per cent of the owners live outside Noosa and 51 percent of them interstate, the majority of profits (likely to be more than $120m) are spent elsewhere.
Part-time workers – Cleaners, gardeners and maintenance workers for the STA properties, many of whom cannot afford to live in Noosa shire. In the UN survey this work is classified as ‘activities’ rather than jobs. Here they are modestly paid from about $31,000/year.
Residents – whose lives are disrupted and health compromised. Almost one in three properties in the coastal zone are now available for STA, creating an undesirable and dominant mix of visitor numbers to permanent occupants.
Long-term renters – competing for fewer places available at increasing prices. Since 2012 there are 800 fewer long term rental properties in Noosa and prices have almost doubled from $370 to $680 a week. Some renters have been evicted. (Now the Mayor has pleaded with owners to return vacant properties to long term rent. About 4500 dwellings were unoccupied on Census night.)
(Noosa saw an encouraging jump in Long Term rental vacancy rates, from 1.2% to 2.3% in the March quarters figures, but of course this doesn’t make the housing stock any more affordable.?
Essential workers – the hospitality, health sector, teachers and retail employees no longer able to find affordable homes.
Private businesses – if STA growth trends exceed the population tipping point reducing the permanent population, the health of private business providing the Noosa community’s wider needs for education, health, retail, banking, the digital economy, rural industries, and professional services will be at risk. This disruptive trend is already apparent in hospitality and health services.
The ‘volunteer’ community – Noosa residents, notable over the past 60 years for their volunteerism in sport, the arts and environmental conservation, making Noosa what it is today. As well as being dispirited by the environmental impacts of the visitor influx, they fear essential services will be reduced if the balance of permanent residents to visitors is not restored.
Noosa Council sees itself as a winner – celebrating its leadership as Qld’s first local government to adopt a Short Stay Letting Local Law (SSL LL). The mayor told the council meeting on March 16 the local law was a ‘huge and significant step forward’.
According to short term rental industry managers, Noosa’s Code of Conduct has brought better behaviour by renters; and the complaints hotline enables residents to act when their peace and amenity is impacted (eg by noise, mid-night partying, all-night lights, signage, parking etc).
But is Noosa really a winner? Critics of the local law say issues such as the depth of the STA entrenchment, its continued creep, a widening circle of workers unable to find homes, and businesses unable to operate to full capacity show the local law only acts as a partial deterrent or inhibitor. There is an underlying economic threat and they say the only instrument that can effectively address Noosa’s “hotelisation” is the planning scheme.
The AEC Group (economic consultants engaged by council to assess economic and social impacts of the SSL LL) noted a ‘tipping point between the allocation of accommodation supply for visitors versus residents and workers, and the demand from workers on the economy”.
AEC saw the lurking threat : “The increasing allocation of housing stock for use as short stay accommodation over the past decade has resulted in a constrained operating environment for local businesses.”
The consequences of the Short-Term Rental problem are more far-reaching than residential amenity, with long term impacts on the economy. It’s up to the Council to restore the balance of visitor numbers to permanent residents and the services and benefits this balance delivers rather than pointing to legacy planning issues as the cause.