Once upon a time there were three types of the accommodation in the South West. The regular home/homestead option, the shed and tourist accommodation. Tourists not staying with family or friends had (and still have) the option of a bed and breakfast, chalet, farm stay and hotel/motel accommodation.

What is emerging is an interesting trend. A discussion with Matt Cuthbert, Planning and Development Augusta Margaret River Shire reveals that there is a rise in Airbnb accommodation. According to Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Margaret River listings were at 216, compared to 588 Perth metropolitan listings (2016).  While Airbnb provides income opportunities for the host, brings tourists into the area and boosts the local economy, the Shire is challenged by this.  Cuthbert is concerned that Airbnb is taking local housing accessibility out of the rental market and local people don’t necessarily like the idea of having strangers occupy the home next door to them on a regular basis. BCEC outline the potential issues being consumer protection, the need for a regulatory framework, taxation, registration and neighbour disturbance.

Other forms of accommodation the Shire is receiving enquiries about are tee pees, eco-tents and tiny houses for private use and tourist accommodation. Cuthbert has expressed Shire support in the rural areas as these options provide minimal environmental impact and up-front investment.  Tiny houses, for example, provide the opportunity for affordability and being free from the shackles a mortgage brings, encourage minimalist living, sustainable and community living, generational living and community housing and an alternative form of tourist accommodation (A Place for Tiny Houses, Australia, 2017)

The Shire appreciates that emerging forms of accommodation help boost tourism, local business as well as local housing development.  So as a solid local housing rental sector can be maintained, it sees itself playing a managerial role to ensure there is balance in accommodation for tourists and the rental market. Its objective is to do this in two ways. Firstly, by way of managing tourist accommodation approvals. This does not mean vetoing an application but it will take action if accommodation is not set up or run according to shire standards. Secondly it is open to the Shire constituency voicing opinions, concerns and general feedback.

With shifts and changes taking place in accommodation choices within the region, watch this space for future development and local engagement.

Sana Turnock, Business Development Advisor, Business South West