Authorities dragging their feet on short-term rental issue

Making informed decisions driven by accurate and representative data is certainly sensible (URA to seek more detailed views on Airbnb-style stays; July 24).

Judging from the pushback against so-called "home sharing" in the form of tougher rules - from Tokyo to New York to Barcelona - there appears to be a universal consensus that no individual exists alone, but as part of a community.

At least five years have elapsed since the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) started addressing this issue, with one survey after another. What other information is it seeking before it can make a decision on the matter?

Last year, the Government amended the law governing private residential use to ban the leasing of such residential properties for less than three months, down from the previous six months, to cater to the accommodation needs of visitors on short-term working stints.

Backing that up with a ban on all online advertisements which promote our residences as vacation homes would have made sense, especially since this is the raison d'etre of all home-sharing sites.

It is also a legislative loophole that they and their clients have exploited for their nefarious business.

Now that the likes of Airbnb haveyears of transaction data on short-term rentals, what's stopping URA from gaining access to this as evidence to prosecute the culprits?

Is this not legally permissible?

If so, why was this kink also not ironed out in last year's legislative amendment?

Plodding along indefinitely to seek consensus on a regulatory framework for short-term rentals when the enforcement of existing laws to stamp out this illegal activity is clearly inadequate cannot be the response of a First World nation like Singapore.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Authorities dragging their feet on short-term rental issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe