Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Planning (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 3/2017]
Madam, I stand in support of the Bill.
I will focus my speech on short-term rentals and I note that it is already illegal to lease a home for less than six months in Singapore.
However, what we are doing in this Bill is codifying this URA subletting guideline and I have concerns about this.
Haste in passing the Bill
My concern is that this Bill might be passed too hastily. In May 2016, URA stated that the results of the public consultation on short-term rentals were “split, with no clear consensus”. The URA by its own admission added that “[t]his issue on short-term stays is complex, multi-faceted, has wide-ranging implications and it warrants a careful and balanced review,” and therefore it “needs more time to study the issue”. I stress that these statements were published not more than a year ago.
While this Bill might be passed, can the Minister clarify if his Ministry will be studying this issue further, will be conducting more public consultations and will do a further review on this?
The sharing economy, albeit disruptive, is here to stay. We have witnessed this with Uber and Grab. Likewise, home-sharing concepts like Airbnb, PandaBed, Roomomara, are here to stay.
Passing the law to combat the real or perceived negativities of the home-sharing economy diverges from the approach that was taken against similarly disruptive entrants in Uber and Grab.
We are also ignoring the popularity of such “disruptive” home-sharing concepts, especially with the younger generation and how this might ultimately also affect our tourism industry.
Just taking into consideration Airbnb, do we really want to ban a company which according to some media reports boasts more than 1 million listings across 190 countries in 34,000 cities with more than 25 million guests served, from operating in Singapore?
At last year’s National Day Rally, PM noted that there are two ways to respond to disruption: To close Singapore off and try to stop people from using the new technology; or embrace change and let the disruption happen – but help the incumbents adapt.
PM said “Old models are not working, new models are coming thick and fast, and we’re having to adjust and to keep up, because of technology and globalisation. And the disruption will happen over and over again, relentlessly”.
I hope that we do not close Singapore off to the home-sharing economy and stop Singaporeans and tourists from using such platforms in Singapore.
I believe that we should embrace this disruption and explore ways to help all stakeholders adapt to the new normal. We should regulate rather than ban.
Given that home-sharing platforms have many users and customers, does the URA have enough manpower to undertake full enforcement measures? How many enforcement officers does it have?
Following the passing of this Bill, will it require all the listings on these home-sharing platforms to be removed?
And lastly, has the URA conducted research on how other countries have regulated the home-sharing concept? Can the Minister share if we are considering following some of these regulations?
Lastly, Madam, I would like to thank the Minister for introducing a custodial sentencing for repeat offenders of permitting unauthorised development and subdivision. This is necessary because recalcitrance at the expense of damaging our Singaporean heritage and identity should never be tolerated.
I am heartened by the addition of section 24B to the Act, which adds another layer of protection to conservation areas in Singapore.
I note that in discharging their duties, qualified persons are required to notify the URA of any contravention or non-compliance with any provision, condition, requirement or plans in relation to this Act. Could the Minister consider adding a time factor into this obligation, to notify “without delay” or “immediately” or “as soon as practicable”?
I believe that the earlier the non-compliance is reported, the higher the chance that we could prevent or mitigate problems that may arise from that non-compliance.
Madam, notwithstanding my comments, I stand in support of the Bill.