A house in the past was typically seen to be a home, a social asset, the prime purpose of which was to provide shelter and a permanent place to live. With the advent of short-term accommodation platforms such as Stayz and Airbnb, a house is now often viewed increasingly as an economic asset to generate income from rent and capital gain. Income from renting for the purpose of STA is typically more than double that of renting to a permanent resident, making it very attractive to investors. In some parts of Noosa Shire more than 50% of the housing stock is already STA and some long-term residents find themselves with STAs on every boundary.
STA is fundamentally incompatible with permanent resident amenity and wellbeing. It undermines community by replacing neighbourhoods characterised by permanent residents who know each other, look out for each other, and have a sense of community, with areas inhabited by strangers, who have no social obligation to interact with or care for each other. Social capital is decimated as permanent residents move away and suddenly, for example, there are not as many volunteers who quietly ensure Noosa remains a good place to live.
So, what to do?
Council is introducing a new Local Law from February 1st which aims to deal with all the daily impacts of STA on permanent residents such as noise, rubbish, and car parking. It will be interesting to see how successful this is. However, the Local Law will do nothing to increase the amount of permanent rental accommodation in Noosa (particularly for low-income earners), to maintain a sense of neighbourhood for existing permanent residents and to maintain the environment and sense of community so valued by permanent residents.
Given that the State government has indicated that it is not prepared to act on STA, Noosa Shire Council needs courageous and visionary leadership to come up with a model which deals with the negative outcomes of STA and ensures that Noosa continues to be a desirable place to live, work and play. Responses which could be considered include banning or seriously restricting STA (Japan, Singapore, Amsterdam, Los Angles, New York City, Mallorca Spain, Paris to name a few), only allowing renting out of spare rooms in owner occupied properties, limiting the number of nights an STA can be rented in a year, putting a ceiling of 4 adults in an STA, ending prior usage rights when a property is sold and confining STA to zoned tourist precincts under the Town Plan.
What if nothing is done?
Business, particularly the hospitality sector, will have to provide accommodation for workers or significantly increase wages to stay in business. If the restaurant sector is forced to contract, Noosa will become a less attractive tourist destination. As permanent residents leave, business will lose customers, particularly in times when tourism is curtailed. The environment will suffer as the many groups made up of volunteers can no longer attract members. Children’s sport and activities will be reduced due to a lack of volunteers to coach, referee and organise activities. Noosa will become just another place destroyed by the economic greed of a few to the detriment of the many.