Many Noosa ratepayers, frustrated by the snail-paced implementation of the Short Stay Let (SSL) Local Law, want the approaching March election to re-boot the initiative.
“Implementation has stalled,” Natasha Fabulic, convenor of the Noosa Residents Against Unregulated Short-Term Accommodation (NRAUSTA), says.
“We want a deadline for registration and penalties, and tougher restrictions.”
The group has petitioned Council, listing concerns and detailing solutions. Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie tabled the petition on Jan 18. They are recommending ratepayers don’t vote for candidates with financial interests in STA properties. They are quizzing candidates on their attitudes to the sector, and recommending ratepayers only support candidates who agree STA numbers should be reduced.
Natasha Fabulic said: “It was hoped the Local Law would address degradation of residential amenity but residents are still suffering. Many are frustrated, disappointed and disillusioned by its delivery. Now we want the new council to get serious about the law’s implementation, enforcement and effectiveness.”
Twenty-four months since its adoption with much fanfare, 1300 properties offered for STA are still to be approved and registered. Financial incentives to register were ignored. This means almost 40% of places offered for short-term rent may not meet health and safety, fire, noise, lighting and off-street parking standards required of commercial accommodation providers. They don’t have on-site managers.
For unregistered properties the complaints Hot Line is powerless in controlling bad behaviour. Now residents want a deadline set, enforcement pursued, and penalties imposed.
- A deadline for remaining registrations, and penalties imposed on owners who still don’t register;
- one on-site parking spot for each bedroom in properties offered for short-term rent;
- A 6o-day/year cap on rental time;
- Real-time data published on-line on all aspects of the approval and registration process, together with complaints lodged and resolved; and
- To stop further growth, no new approvals in residential areas, and loopholes closed.
Loopholes include the principal place of residence (PPR) concession, and the State Government relaxation of granny flat rules.
The PPR concession, intended for residents who traditionally rented homes during holidays, is being used by absentee-investors to collect premium short-term rents for 60 days each year. Council wants neighbours to report abuse; but residents want Council to work with the ATO to strengthen enforcement.
The relaxation of the granny flat restriction was to increase low-cost housing availability, but in Noosa some owners shifted into existing detached granny flats or garages freeing-up primary dwellings for short-term rental at premium rates. This added to street parking congestion and there were no gains for long term or low-income renters.
Natasha Fabulic says the approval process is loaded in favour of investors.
“There is no transparency. When a property owner applies for SSL registration, neighbours are not informed. Until the SSL registration sign appears on the kerb, the outcome is known only to the applicant. If the application fails, the investor has rights of appeal.
“But neighbours have no say in the process and no rights of appeal – regardless of the impacts on them.
“We want full transparency, from lodging the application until finalisation and notification of all permanent residents in the vicinity. And where an application is challenged by a neighbour, we want the decision reviewed before finalisation.”
NRAUSTA also wants real time data on key aspects of the SSL sector available on the council website – including numbers of applications approved and registered; numbers re-registered; numbers rejected; numbers of calls to the complaints Hot Line; number of Hot Line complaints resolved; Identification by SSL registration of properties where complaints are lodged; and numbers of show cause letters and enforcement notices issued.
NRAUSTA wants a statement of principle that ensures all stakeholders understand council is putting residents first in implementing and enforcing the SSL Local Laws
‘Noosa-fication’ loses its appeal
At one time ‘Noosa-fication‘ was a term aspired to by communities successfully balancing development, environmental protection and life-style. Today the term is likely to be a warning about social disruption caused by over-tourism, traffic congestion and short-term renting.
From around 2013 Noosa’s Air BnB numbers quietly crept up on residents and the council. By 2019 around 1 in 5 Noosa properties was offered for rent through digital platforms. Around 4000 were in residential areas with no on-site management, and none of the health and safety, fire, noise, lighting and off-street parking standards required of commercial accommodation providers.
This shadow motel industry converted residential neighbourhoods to tourist zones. Properties once available for long-term rent dwindled. Rates increased.
The tsunami of Short Term rentals has not only hollowed out our neighbourhoods, it’s tarnished the Noosa brand, as ‘Noosa-fication’ becomes something many tourist hotspots across Australia are trying to avoid.