South Coast Council begs holiday home owners to let properties as housing crisis worsens

A New South Wales coastal council is pleading with 7,500 holiday home owners in Canberra and Sydney to make their properties available to tenants to ease the area’s housing crisis.

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Mathew Hatcher has written to a total of around 8,000 non-resident taxpayers who own homes along the South Coast, urging them to consider renting them for one to two years while long-term solutions can be established.

‘We know a lot of Canberrans, and I was one of them, use this area as a holiday destination every summer,’ Councilor Hatcher said.

“And there is no doubt, we want you here, we need your money, we need you to be a tourist for this region.

“We can’t wait years for homes to be built. We need to address the lack of rental properties in our community now.”

Mayor Mathew Hatcher says he needs the help of vacation home owners to address the housing crisis.(ABC Southeast: Keira Proust)

Around 4,000 homes in the Eurobodalla Shire, which stretches from South Durras in the north to Tilba TIlba in the south, are owned by Sydney residents.

Another 3,500 are owned by Canberrans, 280 are owned by Victorians and several hundred more are owned by people who live interstate or overseas.

When 500 homes were lost in the Eurobodalla Shire during the Black Summer 2020 bushfires, the council issued a similar appeal to holiday home owners across the country.

“Over 80 homes have been placed on the market,” said Cr Hatcher.

Families living in campgrounds during the winter

The shortage of affordable rental housing in the area has left more than 50 people living in a campground near Moruya because they have no other choice.

More than a third of all the houses in Eurobodalla are the second homes of people who reside permanently outside the area.

Mr Hatcher said he wanted to avoid going down a regulatory route, such as that being pursued in Byron Bay, where local councils are reducing the number of days homes can be made available for short-term holiday stays.

“It’s not an ideal thing for a local council because obviously we want people to invest and we need tourist accommodation,” he said.

“But we are in a delicate situation.”

He said some tourism businesses could not find enough staff to operate because there were no houses to move into.

The man is sitting near a campfire
Robert Butler is one of 50 people living at the North Head campsite in Moruya.(ABC South East NSW: Fatima Olumee)

Permanent tenants “safer option”

Moruya estate agent Samantha Sheather said there were hardly any properties on the market at the moment for tenants.

She said it makes sense for landlords to have permanent tenants, rather than using their home as short-term accommodation during the peak holiday period.

“You’ve got four weeks’ rent that’s deposited with the bond board, you’ve got work and personal reference checks [and] you don’t take an inventory of every cup and saucer in the house,” she said.

But, Ms Sheather said, some vacation rental owners were hesitant due to new rules protecting long-term renters in the wake of the pandemic.

“I talk to a lot of potential owners who are still scared of the [COVID] moratorium on tenant evictions and worry that they can’t fund their own mortgage because they’ll bring someone in and won’t be able to evict them when they stop paying rent,” she said.

Mr Hatcher said he did not blame people for wanting a return on investment, but hoped those who could afford to rent their homes would.

“We know not everyone can do this, I don’t expect every house to come back on the market,” he said.

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