President of the Australian Local Government Association Linda Scott has pointed to the impact of short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb as a major factor in the current regional rental crisis.
In an interview for the Southern Highland News and Goulburn Post, she said the ALGA had made representations to the NSW Government about further regulation being introduced to allow local councils to slow the trend.
"I'm certainly hearing from regional mayors that housing affordability pressures are in some cases coming to their regions for the first time and in some cases even leading to some people sleeping rough in regions in NSW for the first time," said Ms Scott.
"This is obviously an enormous challenge.
"We have called on the NSW Government to ensure that regional councils have the levers to control the number of nights per year short-term rental accommodation is permissible in an area because local government understands their local economy best."
She said local government was best placed to take action on the issue.
"We continue to advocate for the state government to enact that reform," said Ms Scott.
"We know that these kinds of recovery policies need to be place-based, scaled appropriately, targeted to need and funded appropriately.
"The short term rental accommodation market is a perfect example of how councils can know what's happening in their local areas and make decisions in the public good."
Ms Scott agreed that the current real estate boom in regional NSW was putting pressure on the lower end of the market, with rental vacancy and affordability affected.
Recent research suggests demand has surged following the pandemic, with many people seeking a lifestyle change while remaining in striking distance of the city.
Ms Scott said there were many factors at play, but hoped to see all levels of government work together to improve access to public and affordable housing.
"The issue of affordable housing for many NSW regions has come to a very serious point, particularly in the last year with covid," she said.
"These stories are not unique and I'm hearing them across NSW.
"Of course the lever of short-term rental accommodation is one but there are many other levers.
"We've welcomed the NSW government's new housing strategy and we hope that will offer more opportunities for local governments to work collaboratively with the state government to identify local housing needs so that the state can fund and deliver much-need housing in the appropriate places across NSW.
"We are advocating for the state government to include more public and affordable housing in their state budget and similarly at the Commonwealth level in order to resolve a range of these issues."