EU Clear on Reasons for Pause STR Legislation
A recent article in the Irish Times used the word “unexpected” to describe Europe’s reaction to proposed legislation brought by the Irish Government to regulate the self-catering accommodation sector also known as short-term rental (STR). This indicates a lack of understanding by the author of how people on the ground in rural Ireland and tourism-based communities saw this proposed
legislation as detrimental to their family incomes. They objected to this legislation at the European level as is their right. The fact that the EU stepped in demonstrates that as an outside observer to the situation, it could see the draconian and unfair measures being introduced and quite rightly paused the legislation. Eurostat data, as a result of Collaborative Economy data sharing by the large platforms, has shown that Ireland has one of the greatest decreases in Self-Catering bookings with Dublin performing worst and down almost 60% since the pandemic.
What has EU Commission Requested?
They have requested that the Department of Housing provide clear guidelines for planners and owners of STR in order to support this very important segment of the tourism accommodation sector while balancing the housing needs across the country, particularly in urban areas. Self-catering offers reasonable and affordable accommodation to tourists from the international and domestic markets.
Can Dublin Represent all Irelands Tourism Offering?
The issue of Dublin needs to be dealt with specifically. But the whole country is not Dublin. We must remember that currently, regulations especially aimed at Temple Bar affect rural and coastal Ireland as well. Self-catering has been a tourism accommodation offering for decades. Proposed legislation while aiming to deal with urban issues has threatened and undermined the tourism sector in rural Ireland and tourism towns ( eg Killarney, Kilkenny, Galway). This has had a negative effect on the local economy.
The CSO Statistics for empty or vacant houses (160.000) do not include the number of self-catering units, and to be clear the individual Co Councils have no clear data on the number of 2nd homes in each area either. Rent Pressure Zones have to be reviewed and focused on high-density urban areas only. In the past month yet another tourism town Westport, Co Mayo has been added to the RPZ list.
A Clear Tourism Vision
Europe is currently protecting Irish livelihoods and rural economies to a certain extent this season. But what about next year? A lack of clear integrated vision by the Government as a whole for the Tourism sector can be seen in the town of Sligo. A national surf center was recently established. The lack of accommodation due to Government contracts and no self-catering allowed due to Rent Pressure Legislation means only day trippers can use the Surf Center. Eoghan o Mara Walsh has completed a report on the effect of Government decisions on the Sligo economy.
Benefits of Self-Catering to the Economy
Tourism is an essential part of the Irish economy, making up 13% of the economy in 2019. Accommodation as a sector represents 74% of the employment and clear data is needed on the exact number of tourism beds available in the economy.
The ISCF has repeatedly stated that every 2 self-catering units in rural Ireland are equivalent to 1 full-time job in the area. Guests spend 2.5 times more in the local areas than they have spent on self-catering accommodation, contributing to shops, markets, cafes, restaurants, activity providers, visitor attractions, and many more services in rural Ireland.
Glamping is now considered a luxury option with fresh air and outdoor pursuits central to the business. But few businesses can get planning permission to set up and capitalize on this international marketing of Ireland
- The Government needs to publish clear guidelines for planners and self-catering owners as soon as possible, this will allow legitimate businesses who have worked in the industry for many years to continue. These guidelines should also allow for new businesses to be developed, replacing much of the accommodation now on year-long Government Contracts.
- An EU Register for all STR will be in place by the end of 2023, with Failte Ireland as the Register for Ireland. The ISCF has called for this for many years, allowing legitimate businesses to take bookings for the 2024 season, which they cannot do at present.
- Clear support are needed for those who want to set up new businesses with a national policy on how such businesses can be developed in rural areas.
There has been a plethora of articles with unsubstantiated statistics being bandied about. The Dept. of Housing admitted at an Oireachtas Committee Meeting that the infamous “12,000” houses that were to become available for long-term rental due to this proposed legislation was actually a back-of-an-envelope calculation. Clear data which will be provided by a Register, will inform the development of this sector. Thank goodness for level-headed Europe that is insisting everything is paused until the correct guidance and balance is given.
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