Proposed rule changes for residential visitor accommodation will be notified tomorrow, changing the landscape of short and long-term accommodation in the Queenstown-Lakes district.

In Wanaka, well-known for its large quantity of empty houses, people involved in the industry are not sure what impact it will have. The new rules will have the most effect on absentee owners wanting to rent out their property for long periods. The proposed rules only allow up to 28 days short-term rental a year, with no more than three separate lettings. Anyone wanting to rent their property for more than 28 days will now need a resource consent to do so.

Statistics taken from the 2013 Census showed over a third of dwellings in Wanaka and Hawea were unoccupied. Yet, long-term rental accommodation is extremely competitive in the area.

Home & Co director Colleen Topping said the shortage was very noticeable. “We would have eight to 10-plus applications per house we advertise so each time there are plenty of disappointed tenants.” Ms Topping said other property managers in the Queenstown Lakes District were also experiencing the same shortage of rentals for tenants. While she applauded the efforts to increase the number of long-term properties available, she said she was unsure what significant impact this change would make on the rentals market.

Harcourts Wanaka sales manager Grant Parker believed the owners of these empty homes often used their properties only for holiday periods or seasons throughout the year. They were financing the expenses of the property through short-term rentals. “They utilise these short-term and holiday rental opportunities to relieve some of the expenses relating to ownership of holiday homes eg. rates, insurances, maintenance. “Some may consider applying for consent and others may just revert back to leaving the homes empty for the time they are away from the property.” Mr Parker said he also had his doubts about whether the proposed changes would relieve the available long-term rental shortage.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief Bindi Norwell said many property owners in Wanaka did not like being dictated to and were left feeling frustrated by the changes. She also believed there could be severe ramifications for the town. “The very likely impact is that the changes may reduce the number of short-term rentals available in the market as people will simply make their properties unavailable to the rental market. “This could have ramifications for the local tourism industry,” she said.

However, president of the Wanaka B&B Association Liz Webster believed the council taking action was positive news. “Some people are a bit naive about what renting out their property on online travel sites such as Airbnb involves. There are regulations and taxes that have to be met, and many people do not realise that. It will have a positive effect on everyone,” she said.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said the changes were not an attempt to remove visitor accommodation from the district, but aimed at increasing the available housing stock for longer-term rentals. “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,” Mayor Boult said.       –Sean Nugent

Source – ODT