Australia: The Western Australian Labour and Liberal parties have united to set up a parliamentary inquiry into regulation of the state’s short-stay accommodation industry.
Tension has grown between owners of licenced short-stay businesses, such as hotels, serviced apartments and bed and breakfasts, and backyard operators who do not have a licence and advertise on platforms like Airbnb.
Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said the inquiry would aim for a bipartisan plan on the regulation of the industry.
The inquiry would look into issues such as customer safety, insurance, land use planning, building standards, stay length, neighbourhood amenity, registration, licencing and taxation.
Airbnb said it welcomed the inquiry.
Airbnb public policy head, Brent Thomas, said: “We are now one step closer to having fair rules for home sharing in Western Australia, just like there are in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia.
“Our community has long argued the current rules for home sharing are out-of-date and acting as a handbrake on growth. The way people travel and use their homes has changed, and the rules should change as well.
“We will urge the inquiry to back the local families and small businesses who rely on Airbnb. The law should support what is good for voters – not vested interests,” he added.
According to Airbnb, there are 11,500 properties listed in Western Australia on its website, with 4000 in Perth.
On average, each property typically brings in $6100 through Airbnb and leases out their accommodation for 34 nights.
Saffioti said the government had consulted the rules regulating the industry and welcomed the parliament’s Economics and Industry Standing Committee’s decision to set up the inquiry.
She said: “I want to make sure that there is wide consultation and a bipartisan approach to reform in this industry. This inquiry is an opportunity to have a committee of the parliament test ideas with the industry and to report back to the parliament and then government.
“The government had been progressing work on this matter, including developing a range of options for the future. This process allows the work undertaken to be utilised by the committee and to make sure we have all the right information in front of us,” she added.
Opposition tourism spokeswoman Libby Mettam supported the decision.
She said: “The sector now includes operators ranging from people renting out their spare room to backpackers, to hotel chains and, as a result, the issues are complex.
“While there are outstanding issues where hotels and resorts are competing with operators without the same sort of compliance burdens, we also don’t want people who are renting out their back room to have prohibitive regulatory standards imposed on them.
“We need a fairer, more level playing field, which could mean either expanding the regulatory framework or making it easier for mainstream accommodation providers.
Mettam said Airbnb was a fact of life around the world.
She said: “It adds choice in the tourism sector and fills a gap in the market especially during special events and peak holiday periods in regional WA.”
However, regional governments were not sufficiently resourced to regulate the industry.
Mettam said: “Leaving it to individual local governments would result in inconsistencies between regions and further complicate the issue.
“A state-wide policy needs to at a minimum ensure appropriate health and safety and noise control measures,” she added.