Proposal to allow short-term home sharing put on hold: URA

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will not be going ahead with proposed changes to rules for short-term stays in private homes following four years of extensive consultations with diverse groups of stakeholders.

While many home owners backed the proposed rules, several home-sharing platform operators found them too onerous - and no compromise could be reached.

This means short-term stays of less than three consecutive months in private homes remain illegal, and the URA will continue enforcing current regulations, it said yesterday.

Under the Planning Act, it is an offence to convert the use of a private home for short-term accommodation. Offenders may be fined up to $200,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12 months.

The authority had considered a proposed regulatory framework in April last year to allow owners at strata-titled developments to accommodate short-term stays if they got 80 per cent consent from owners. The framework would have required owners to register their properties with the URA, with short-terms stays capped at 90 days a year per unit, among other requirements.

A survey commissioned by URA last year showed that a majority of more than 1,000 private home owners surveyed supported the proposed rules.

Many remained concerned about noise and loss of privacy and only 7 per cent said they would let out their properties for short-term stays, if these were allowed.

However, operators such as Airbnb felt that the proposed rules were overly restrictive.

"It is understandable that platform operators would be driven by commercial imperatives. But it is not tenable for URA to allow a more relaxed regulatory framework that does not address concerns raised by Singaporeans," URA said.

Given this impasse, the URA said it will not proceed with the proposed regulations at this stage. However, it will keep monitoring the situation.

"URA remains open to reviewing the position in future, if and when platform operators demonstrate that they are prepared to adhere to the regulatory framework," it said.

Ms Mich Goh, Airbnb's head of public policy for South-east Asia, told The Straits Times: "After nearly four years of consultation, it is disappointing that the discussion has not moved forward."

She added that some governments around the world have put in place rules and regulations for short-term home sharing, although these laws differ from country to country.

Mr Ang Choo Pin, senior director of government and corporate affairs for Asia at Expedia Group, said the URA's decision is "a signal that it recognises the complexity of the issue and needs more time to study it".

He said Expedia's vacation rental marketplace, HomeAway, was ready to help the Government create a framework "that is sustainable and commercially feasible, one that does not penalise bona fide operators and present high barriers to entry that risk driving the industry underground".

Airbnb, in a study released last year, said its 8,100 listings in Singapore helped generate $411 million in economic activity in 2017, of which $77 million went to hosts.

An Airbnb host who wanted to be known only as Mr Yang said: "It is definitely possible to host guests responsibly without causing disamenity to other residents. Hosts can ensure that their guests follow the rules, submit their passport details and contact numbers."

But home owner Christopher Yeo who lives in Harbourlights condo has had enough. "There are people moving into some of my neighbours' units more than once a week. This has been going on for the past two years, but became worse in the last six months."

"If I wanted to stay in a hotel, I would have bought a serviced apartment."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline Proposal to allow short-term home sharing put on hold: URA. Subscribe