We watched and listened to lots of self-congratulatory noises in Noosa Council this month, but from a local residents’ point of view – how is our Short Stay Local Law going? And can we do more?
Background: In October 2020 Noosa Council voted 6:1 (Lorentson against) to shut down growth of the Short Stay Letting (SSL) phenomenon that has swamped some Noosa Shire residential areas. Overall, one in five dwellings is offered for SSL
Review: A Staff authored 12-month review of the SSL Local Law (LL) was presented to council last week. It found the LL to be ‘working well’, ‘well received’ and ‘running smoothly and efficiently’.
Promise: On adoption of the SSL Local Law Mayor Stewart said ‘with the local law the council is delivering’’ on calls from the community. But 18 months after the mayor’s claim that council ‘is delivering’, what is the reality?
Numbers increase; registrations slow: There’s been a 5 per cent increase overall in dwellings offered for SSL, and a 12 per cent increase in SSLs in low density residential areas where councillors said there would be no more approvals. Only about half the 4000 dwellings offered for Short Stay Letting where registration to operate is required have been approved .
Complaints: The Council hotline has shown the need for regulation. An average 2 complaints a day have been made to it since February 2022, rising to about 3/day over the Dec/January holiday period, amply confirming the impact of SSL on residential amenity.
What about the experience of residents? Some have reported courteous, prompt and informed responses in handling hotline complaints. Others say operators have been poorly informed. Still others have been told there can be no action in response to complaints about unregistered properties – a Catch 22. Some complainants say their anonymity has been compromised – resulting in threats, including personal confrontation, letters and vindictive behaviour.
And what about the response of SSL owners? About 1300 owners are still to apply for registration. These owners banked multi-millions of dollars in rental income over the 18-month fee holiday. As well there is a backlog of more than 600 applications to be processed by Council.
Easter holidays: The backlog of applications, plus the recalcitrant owners, means there will be about 2000 properties Short Stay Let over Easter where the hotline will be irrelevant – the Catch 22.
Compliance action: Council has told 78 unregistered SSL property owners where there have been complaints about renter behaviour that they must register. Thirty-three property owners have been told their signage does not comply. Three formal notices have been issued to property owners advising they are not complying with the Local Law, and one owner received a Show Cause notice detailing his non-compliance with the Local Law and advising that without rectification further action will be taken.
What do Councillors think? At the review of the SSL LL, Mayor Clare Stewart described it as a “huge and significant” step forward with Noosa Council the first in Qld to adopt such a process.
Deputy Mayor Wilkie said the Local Law process started in 2019 after one of the Shire’s biggest and most controversial campaigns that split the tourism industry and community.
“The tourism industry remains alive and well”, he noted.
Councillor Jurisevic expressed concern that 1300 properties operating as SSLs remained to be registered and wants an increased registration fee after July 1 for those that haven’t registered.
Councillor Lorentson – declaring she and her husband own an SSL property – did not take part in the discussion.
So how does Noosa stand internationally? After a recent survey of SSL regulations, University of Sydney academics concluded Australia’s approach is very “light touch” – the overarching aim to encourage the tourism economy.
They also concluded: when landlords “host” tourists rather than residents, housing supply is depleted, rents rise, and neighbourhoods change. Sadly, this is lived experience in Noosa.