Short-term stays un­likely to be al­lowed soon: Min­is­ter

The New Paper - - NEWS - RACHEL AU-YONG, HOUS­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Lawrence Wong says rea­sons in­clude mixed pub­lic re­ac­tion and that such stays raise rents, home prices

New laws al­low­ing for Airbnb­style stays are un­likely to come any time soon.

The rea­sons in­clude the “mixed views” given in a re­cently con­cluded pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion and the global trend show­ing that such short-term stays raise rents and home prices, said Min­is­ter for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Lawrence Wong in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

“We are study­ing the mat­ter care­fully,” Mr Wong said of an on­go­ing re­view of a pro­posed frame­work for reg­u­lat­ing short­term rentals of pri­vate homes.

“If and when we choose to (make changes), we will make sure there are in­deed ap­pro­pri­ate safe­guards,” he told Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC).

Among the pro­pos­als made was to al­low prop­er­ties to be used as short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion for up to 90 days, as long as own­ers who hold 80 per cent of the share value agree to a change in land use.

Cur­rently, stays have to be for at least three months. But short-term stays booked on, say, the Airbnb por­tal, tend to be as short as a cou­ple of days.

Ms Lee also ques­tioned whether the pro­posed thresh­old of 80 per cent was too low, as res­i­dents who dis­agree would still have to put up with po­ten­tial dis­amenity such as noise and a lack of pri­vacy.

Mr Wong also dis­closed that from 2015 to last year, the Ur­ban Rede­vel­op­ment Author­ity (URA) re­ceived 1,808 reports of il­le­gal short-term stays in pri­vate homes while the Hous­ing Board got 390 such com­plaints.

FINED

So far, one case has been brought to court, where two for­mer prop­erty agents were fined $60,000 each for il­le­gal short­term stays in a Bukit Timah con­do­minium.

To pre­vent such com­plaints, Mr Alex Yam (Mar­sil­ing-Yew Tee GRC) sug­gested the Gov­ern­ment act against web­sites ad­ver­tis­ing home-shares.

But, Mr Wong said, such web­sites “in and of them­selves do not con­tra­vene the rules” as they do not spec­ify a time­frame in their list­ings.

But a check on an un­named home-shar­ing web­site by Mr Melvin Yong (Tan­jong Pa­gar GRC), dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, showed there were at least 196 list­ings that al­lowed for an il­le­gal short-term stay of five days in the Novena and Or­chard ar­eas, part of Mr Yong’s Moul­mein-Kal­lang ward.

He said: “Res­i­dents can­not un­der­stand why in­ves­ti­ga­tions are tak­ing so long be­cause they have pic­tures of peo­ple com­ing in buses and Grab cars ev­ery two, three days.

“Dur­ing my house vis­its, they even tell me which are the units, and when I knock on the door, in­deed, some­times dif­fer­ent res­i­dents come to talk to me.”

Mr Wong told Mr Yong he will ask the URA to make sure it has “suf­fi­cient re­sources to do their en­force­ment and make sure that this is done ex­pe­di­tiously”.

rachelay@sph.com.sg

PHO­TOS: TNP FILE, AFP

Min­is­ter for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Lawrence Wong says the min­istry is study­ing the mat­ter on al­low­ing Airbnb-style stays.

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