9 Nov 2017

New Queenstown rental rules target absentee owners: 'We are not against Airbnb'

8:59 pm on 9 November 2017

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult is attempting to reassure home owners after the council unanimously agreed to a short-term rental clampdown.

Queenstown

The Queenstown Mayor says locals feel uncomfortable their residential areas are effectively turning into de-facto commercial zones. Photo: 123.rf

The revised rules, which include a proposal to restrict short-term letting in many residential areas of the district to 28 days per year, were backed unanimously by councillors at a meeting yesterday.

The changes were not intended to remove existing visitor accommodation or target people who wanted to let part of their home for additional income, Mr Boult said.

"We believe the proposals reflect the desires of a significant portion of our community who don't want to see their neighbourhood becoming a commercial accommodation operation," he said.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult. Photo: Supplied

"We are not against Airbnb or other visitor accommodation booking sites, and acknowledge they play an important role in providing short term beds for people visiting the district. But we need to ensure our own people are housed and that short term accommodation is available in the most appropriate locations."

The rules were designed to target absentee owners, who are buying houses in low- and medium-density residential areas to let as short-term visitor accommodation.

"We're not trying to stop people from renting out their home when they're away on holiday," Mr Boult said.

"The proposed rules still allow for that. It's important people realise that we aren't taking away existing rights. These proposals won't affect anyone with existing resource consent for visitor accommodation.

"We are regularly hearing that people feel uncomfortable with their suburbs housing more and more short-term guests. They are effectively living next to a hotel and are concerned that their residential areas are turning into de-facto commercial zones."

Those wishing to let out their home while it was empty could still do so for 28 days a year, comprising three separate lets.

People could still sublet part of their home to provide additional income, if they remained living in the house, he said.

"What we're proposing for homestays means that if you've got a spare room or self-contained flat and you'd like to rent it out, you can continue to do so as often as you like, as long as you're there and there are fewer than five guests."

Current council rules allowed home owners to rent out their properties to short-term guests for up to 90 days a year.

But the council has said the rules were poorly understood, and poorly policed.

As a result, 14 percent of all short-term stays in the district were booked through Airbnb, council figures show.

Faced with a severe housing shortage, council staff want to restrict the letting of homes in many residential parts of the district to 28 days a year.

The idea being this would lead to fewer houses listed on Airbnb and more on the rental market.

Council figures estimate 2700 houses have been removed from the long-term rental market as a result of Airbnb.

Airbnb came out strongly opposed to the council's proposal, saying it undermined property owner's rights and the company would fight the measures.

Mr Boult encourages residents to take part in consultation, which will be notified on 23 November and be open for three months.