Airbnb letting is popular in the Byron Shire, but is a big concern for residents and council.
Airbnb letting is popular in the Byron Shire, but is a big concern for residents and council. Bev Lacey

Byron council may consider taxes amid Airbnb tourist surges

BYRON Shire has more than 29,000 permanent residents, but each year two million people visit the popular holiday destination on the NSW North Coast.

Reports show the town is grappling with the added pressure from the sharing economy, with residents leasing out their homes on websites like Airbnb.

In an attempt to combat the issue of tourist pressure, Byron Shire Council may consider introducing new measures such as a 'bed tax' and a property register.

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Byron Shire Councillor Paul Spooner said Airbnb is a big contributor to rental affordability issues and is behind the idea of a tax.

"We're seeing a lot of people who are having to leave the area- long term residents- having to pack up and move out because the houses they are living in is being turned over to Airbnb accommodation," Cr Spooner said.

"I will propose the State Government use Byron shire as a trial site for a tourism levy or 'bed-tax'. This community welcomes tourism but we need to have a balance to ensure our residents that don't own properties are able to stay here."

Approximately 15% of accommodation- one in seven houses- in the Byron shire is now dedicated to short term letting.

"For every resident we have 200 visitors, that's a huge impact. The bed tax looks at how can we make a contribution from all the people coming here to enjoy the facilities.

"Currently council is estimating the cost related impact on the regions infrastructure and around 30% is attributed to tourism. Something like 5% or $5 will generate a lot of income to be spent on the Shire's facilities."

The concern also follows reports of the gap between average incomes and average home prices continues to widen.

"Its gotten to a critical point. If we want to maintain our community we have to do something about it. The average cost of weekly rent is beyond the reach of most people on local, low-income salaries," Cr Spooner said.

Airbnb's Brent Thomas has said the company is not to blame for high rents and supply issues, but tighter regulations would be supported.