Lobby group calls for limit on growth of Airbnb

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By GUY WILLIAMS

An accommodation sector lobby group’s calling for a debate on curbing future growth of the residential visitor accommodation (RVA) market.

The Lakes District Accommodation Sector group, which represents about 110 businesses across the Queenstown Lakes, wants City Hall to stop — or limit the growth of — more homes being added to the portfolios of RVA platforms such as Airbnb.

Spokesman Nik Kiddle, an apartment operator and former mayoral candidate, says providers like Airbnb and Bookabach are a valuable component of the resort’s accommodation sector, but unfettered growth in the number of properties they offer will put downward pressure on the incomes of all accommodation providers.

‘‘If they’re allowed to constantly expand their portfolios, which is what they’ve been doing for the past six years, it’ll erode the value of all of those existing assets and businesses, and do further damage to the housing market as well as to the formal accommodation sector,’’ Kiddle says.

The district’s RVA sector consists of more than 2300 properties, most of them entire houses, which means it’s offering about 7000 beds to visitors.

That compares to the formal accommodation sector, which has under 1,000 beds.

‘‘They’re already 60% of the size of the formal accommodation sector.

‘‘If they keep mushrooming the way they are, there’s going to be no business left for any of us, including the Airbnb hosts.’’

He’s had an initial meeting with City Hall chief executive Mike Theelen, and after more discussion amongst the group’s members, it’s about to send a formal proposal to City Hall and central government.

Kiddle says City Hall could mandate that homes built in newly-consented subdivisions, such as Coneburn, ‘‘belong in the residential pool and can’t be converted into commercial businesses for short-term letting’’.

‘‘The council has the power to define different parts of the district where it’s just not going to be allowed, and we want proper neighbourhood communities in those areas.

‘‘We protect what we’ve got, and we don’t allow further erosion of the quality of our communities.’’

The group’s members are also unhappy about the lack of financial support for small- and medium-sized accommodation providers, and will also be pursuing that with the government.

Big hotel chains are reaping the benefits of the government’s half-billion dollar budget for MIQ facilities, while many tourism businesses have had payouts from its $400m package.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz