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URA proposes safeguards for short-term home stays

URA proposes safeguards for short-term home stays.

Airbnb-style home-sharing is one step closer to becoming legal here, even as observers said the rules governing short-term stays proposed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will present a barrier too high for many to cross.

The URA outlined a list of safeguards in a long-awaited public consultation on short-term accommodation yesterday, making it clear it intends to closely regulate the practice.

"We think it is possible to allow (them) in private residential properties, but subject to appropriate regulation and safeguards," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote in a Facebook post yesterday, adding that the Government studied the matter for some time.

It proposed a new category of short-term accommodation for private residential properties, which existing developments can adopt if they have the owners' consent and are registered as such.

For condominiums governed by management committees, the URA is proposing that owners holding on to at least 80 per cent of the share value agree to the change of use. This is similar to the threshold for most properties seeking to sell en bloc.

In addition, the URA said it would consider the impact of such short-term stays on the surrounding community. Condos, which have management committees and localised security measures, are more likely to be considered favourably for a change of use, especially if they are located in mixed-use areas like commercial centres or business parks, or sites with good traffic infrastructure.

But it said most landed estates were unlikely to be approved for such stays because they are mostly located in areas with relatively quiet and narrow roads, and have no governance structures.

Even for condos that pass the 80 per cent threshold, the authority wants to cap the annual rental at 90 days and have a maximum occupancy of six people per unit. The URA is also proposing that hosts register with the regulator and provide a record of guest details for each stay.

The URA also said management committees can "put in place additional measures to manage potential disamenity", such as introducing by-laws with a lower rental cap than the proposed 90 days, or requiring home-sharing owners to pay additional maintenance fees for common areas and facilities.

Platform operators like Airbnb and HomeAway could also be made to comply with a list of rules, including vetting postings and keeping track of the rental duration.

The move received mixed reactions from home owners and experts, with some observers telling The Straits Times that the rules - especially the collective sale-like threshold - may mean most condos will reject such stays.

Airbnb said it is "committed to reasonable solutions" and welcomed the chance to give feedback.

The consultation ends on May 31.

Adapted from: The Staits Times, 17 Apr 2018