Christchurch Airbnb operators face paying $1000 bill or getting a permit

New Zealand: Christchurch homeowners renting entire properties on Airbnb may have to get a permit under updated council short-term rental regulations.

On Wednesday, Christchurch’s regulatory performance committee discussed applying a business rate on whole properties used for hosting short-term guests on Airbnb for four or more months a year, or a potential permit system.

The aim is to create a fairer situation for traditional accommodation suppliers like hotels and motels. Based on average property value, the council estimates a business rate would add $1000 to the rates bill of about 700 affected properties, which would lead to a reduction on the rates of other properties.

The problem is, the council has no extra money or staff to enforce the proposed moves so staff currently only investigate properties when the public make complaints.

Home-share accommodation has grown rapidly in Christchurch with Airbnb listings growing from 283 to 3481 in the last two years up to August 2018. During that time, Airbnb’s share of guest nights in Christchurch grew from 0.7 to 21.6 per cent and entire home listings grew from 114 to 1471.

Of those properties, the council has identified 1100 Airbnb host properties that could be operating in a residential area without the required resource consent.

The committee recommended on Wednesday the council investigate the feasibility of a permit system as well as the business rate.

It also called on the council to lobby the central government to investigate putting legislation in place to regulate the home-share accommodation sector.

A council residents’ survey found 20 per cent of respondents would not have travelled if home-share accommodation was not available.

In residential zones, 800 whole unit listings were available in Christchurch for more than 90 nights a year; 696 of those were available for 120 night or more.

Other councils across the country are pondering how best to deal with the growing short-term accommodation sector. Auckland Council has introduced a tiered rates scheme in which home-share operators pay a percentage of their rates as business rates, depending on how many nights per year are booked.

The Queenstown Lakes district council wants to use its district plan to limit the number of days a home-share could operate without resource consent annually in certain areas.

Committee chairman Cr Jamie Gough said he preferred to take a ‘wait and see’ approach so the council could learn from Auckland and Queenstown’s mistakes.

He said: “Regulation is needed, but I don’t think we need to be at the forefront of it.”

Airbnb Australia NZ head of public policy Brent Thomas said Airbnb believed broad-based bed taxes rather than council rates were a fairer way to raise revenue from tourism.

He said he wanted to work collaboratively with the Christchurch council and other local governments to develop fair and balanced rules for home sharing.

Airbnb injected more than $36.5 million a year into the Christchurch economy and sustained more than 360 local jobs, he added.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa hotel sector regional chairman Michael Patterson said a tiered system with varied rate charges depending on the property’s use as a home-share would be a fairer approach than what the council was proposing.

He said it was hard to justify hotel development if there was an easier pathway setting up alternative accommodation.

Patterson said: “An investor could say buy 50 or 60 units and Airbnb them more easily than building a hotel, so that’s actually a very real possibility of competition for hotel investment dollar.”