Town’s Airbnb surge “disruptive”

Pictured: Wanaka - Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

A PhD candidate researching the sociology of New Zealand’s tourist towns is analysing her findings on Wanaka’s Airbnb “conundrum.”

Massey University candidate Stella Pennell, pictured, spoke to nine Wanaka Airbnb hosts in August to research her PhD thesis, investigating the large growth and social impact of Airbnb on tourist towns across the country.

Wanaka currently houses more than 300 Airbnb properties and has a population of just over 6400, whereas Palmerston North, which has a population of 80,000, has just 160.

“It’s not surprising that tourist towns have a greater amount of visitor accommodation than non-tourist towns and cities,” Stella said.

“What is new about this is that Airbnb isn’t visitor accommodation in the commercial or traditional sense. It’s people’s private homes and that in itself is pretty disruptive to the housing market.”

Stella added that she had spoken to “quite a few” people in Wanaka who had previously had tenants or flatmates who had made the shift to Airbnb.

“There tends to be a lot of issues and responsibilities in having a flatmate or tenant, for example you’ve got the tenancy tribunal, but Airbnb doesn’t follow those rules. So the individual may not have the same consequences, but the implications to the town are really big,” Stella said.

“There is a lot of insecure work in tourist towns so to supplement their income people turn to Airbnb. There are legitimate reasons for doing it but it then makes it hard for people who can’t afford housing. There seems to be a trend in tourist towns of worker displacement because of no affordable housing, and Airbnb is pretty strongly implicated in that.”

New rules on residential visitor accommodation, including Airbnbs, were being discussed as the Wanaka Sun went to print on Wednesday November 8, at an extraordinary meeting of Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC).

If approved the new rules, which aim to take a more restrictive approach to the short-term letting of housing within the district’s Low and Medium Density Residential Zones and Large Lot Residential Zones, will be publicly notified on November 23.

QLDC general manager planning and development Tony Avery said a wide-ranging review of how the council addresses the challenges and opportunities brought about by people renting their residential properties out short-term for visitor accommodation has been ongoing for the past year.

“It was important we took a holistic approach, looking at rates policy, enforcement, building code requirements, local housing and incomes, and visitor preferences as well as the district plan. The proposed new provisions, if approved, would provide a much clearer framework for visitor accommodation activities in our residential zones,” he said.    

RELATEDSeeking Airbnb hosts from around Wanaka Posted: 12 August 2017

Pictured: Wanaka - Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

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