Plan change proposed for visitor accommodation

Update: This morning the Council’s Urban Development and Transport Committee approved the public notification of a proposed change to the District Plan. The proposal relates to the use of residential dwellings for visitor accommodation (e.g. Airbnb and HomeAway/Bookabach-type activities), and has hit the headlines recently, with some individuals and groups arguing the changes are unnecessary or go too far, and others that they don’t go far enough. What’s being proposed, and what are the next steps in the process?

The Council’s January 2020 discussion document (available here)

In February this year I attended a Papanui drop-in session as part of the Council’s consultation on potential changes to the Christchurch District Plan around managing home-share accommodation. What I found interested at the time was that of the estimated 1600-plus listings in Christchurch on the likes of Air BnB etc for unhosted accommodation (where the owner did not live on site), only a ‘handful’ were compliant with the existing District Plan requirements, specifically the need for a Resource Consent for a property to be used in that way.

The motions under debate (and subsequently passed) at the Council’s committee meeting

The Council is now proposing to change the District Plan to make compliance easier for some property owners, while raising the compliance bar where properties are rented on an unhosted basis for more than 180 days a year. Another key point is that material changes aren’t being proposed for hosted accommodation – eg single room listings or bed & breakfast situations where the property owner also lives on site.

Here’s a high-level summary of the current situation, and proposed changes*

Current situationProposed change to District Plan
Hosted accommodation – single room listings / bed & breakfastsPermittedPermitted
Unhosted accommodation / whole-unit listingsRequire a resource consent as a Discretionary Activity. (“Only a handful” of hosts have applied for consent, despite an estimated 1600-plus listings requiring them)Up to 60 days a year: require a Controlled Activity resource consent (easier/cheaper to be compliant compared to status quo)

61-180 days: remain a Discretionary Activity (status quo)

Over 180 days a year: Non-Complying Activity (more difficult than the status quo to obtain a resource consent)

*This is a simplified summary – more details and conditions apply. See the Council’s Newsline article, the Home-share accommodation District Plan review, or the District Plan.

The main arguments I’ve heard against the proposed Plan change:

  • The availability of unhosted accommodation encourages visitation/tourism and is therefore good for Christchurch / the economy;
  • Owners of properties should have the right to use them as they please, including renting them out as unhosted accommodation;
  • A Plan change is the wrong regulatory approach – properties used for unhosted accommodation should be rated as businesses and should have the same compliance requirements as motels etc.

Key arguments I’ve heard in favour of the proposed Plan change:

  • Owners of holiday homes / batches should be able to compliantly rent them as unhosted accommodation more easily (the proposed change will make a Consent for up to 60 days a year more straight forward / cheaper to obtain);
  • Properties that are primarily used at unhosted accommodation are unfairly competing with the regulated accommodation sector (motels etc) and this should be restricted;
  • The current unhosted accommodation environment is having negative impacts on residential neighbourhoods.

How much should accommodation owners pay in rates?

Should owners of properties used for unhosted accommodation be charged commercial rates? Should they face other compliance requirements? I expect we’ll hear more about that during the Council’s upcoming Long-Term Plan process.

Steps in the Plan change process – a screen shot from the live stream of the Committee meeting

Next steps

The proposed Plan change is just that – a proposal. Following today’s approval, the proposal will be publicly notified, with several opportunities for members of the public to give feedback. Following submissions and hearings, a recommendation will be made to the Council’s Committee, potentially appeals, and then ultimately the implementation of whatever changes to the Plan are finally approved.

How can I have my say?

There’s been one round of public consultation already (from January to March 2020), which contributed to the development of the proposal as it currently stands. Information presented at the Committee meeting suggests the next feedback period will be between 24 September and 22 October 2020, with potentially further submissions and the opportunity for submitters to speak to a hearings panel.

Question for readers

What’s your view on the hosted and unhosted accommodation situation in Christchurch? What changes would you like to see (if any)?