In the past decade, the most critical issue facing Noosa Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association (NSRRA) has been the impact on community of the short-term accommodation (STA) industry.
As stakeholders in round after round of public consultation, NSRRA observed successive Council and State governments fail to rein in expansion of short-term accommodation operations into the suburbs.
Unsurprisingly, unregulated STA investment collapsed long-term rental stocks as up to 4000 of Noosa’s 26,000 residential dwellings (15%) were co-opted for tourism.
Although latest Council data indicates there’s over 5200 Airbnb’s in the Shire, it must be noted this includes 1200 resort units originally approved for tourism, which of course doesn’t impact long-term rental availability.
When Council gazetted the Noosa Plan in 2020, a rush of investors sought to beat its July 2021 deadline to lodge STA applications. This coincided with Noosa being inundated with new residents fleeing southern states in what can only be described as a Covid exodus.
As long-term rental availability crashed and rents skyrocketed, median house prices soared by record margins (above 20% per year). Like many regions, Noosa found itself in a housing crisis with our community pointing the blame fairly and squarely at the rampant STA industry.
To their credit, Council implemented Local Laws to manage STA/Resident conflicts and is considering planning amendments to curb further STA market expansion. That said, the sheer number of homes now approved for tourism indicate the horse has long bolted and the new rules influence on the housing market will be negligible.
The so-called ‘Airbnb’ phenomenon’s impact on housing came to a head when tourism rebounded after Covid restrictions relaxed in 2021. Business suddenly realised their low paid, pre-Covid workforce could no longer find or afford local accommodation.
It seemed ironic when Airbnb representatives complained how their cleaning staff couldn’t access long-term rental accommodation in the area…because so many had been converted to short-term rentals.
With Council’s belated efforts failing to contain the STA industry, NSRRA again turned our minds to the State Government’s ongoing refusal to use its legislative power to protect coastal communities such as ours.
For several years, State planners grappled with the idea of amending State property law to give Councils more authority to protect residential zoned precincts from the incursion of commercial tourism.
Unfortunately, State government refusal to legislate had effectively exposed Councils to the threat of injurious affection litigation for any planning amendments that could adversely impact STA property values.
NSRRA submissions to the State also suggested measures should be considered such as limiting the number of nights per year STAs can operate in residential areas. The NSW Government limiting Short Term Accommodation operations to a maximum of 180 nights per year was provided as an example.
We note Noosa MP Sandy Bolton raised this strategy in Parliament however the State government have only indicated they are considering the matter in yet another review.
This brings us to Noosa Council’s controversial response to the housing crisis with their broad ranging Noosa Housing Strategy. Council appears hellbent on solving issues of social housing, rental availability, and housing affordability in one fell swoop.
In part 2 of ‘Noosa Housing in Crisis’ I will endeavour to explain why Council’s reactive response to the housing crisis goes beyond their jurisdiction and presents a genuine threat to the planning controls the Noosa community fought so hard to establish over the past 30 years.