Short-Term Accommodations - UPDATED October 1
The Short-term accommodation (STA) or airbnb issue is a serious one for the County.
An increasing number of properties which would otherwise house families full time or on a long-term basis, are being rented out as tourist properties on a short-term basis.
An August 30 report to Council on the rental vacancy rate laid out the disturbing fact that our long-term accommodation vacancy rate is at 0.81%, which means it is almost impossible for folks to find a place to rent. This has undoubtedly been influenced by the prevalence of property use as STAs rather than longer-term rental.
This is causing issues with noise, garbage, parking, dark neighbourhoods, is exacerbating the shortage of affordable long-term housing – and is wreaking significant change on many areas of the County.
There is no turning back the clock on tourism, in my view. It has become, in many ways, the lifeblood of the County economy.
What we can do, however, is regulate STAs so that use is controlled, and problems are minimized. This will require a combination of zoning and licensing bylaws. Council will likely pass 2 bylaws on October 9 – the Official Plan amendment and Zoning bylaw amendment which will allow the County to regulate STAs.
The actual licensing bylaw will be left for the next Council to deal with before the start of the next tourist season. After a tremendous amount of highly varied public input, the Planning staff are going back to the drawing board to come up with rules which solve problems without causing undue effort and cost for the STA owners who do not cause problems.
As your Councillor, I will be in favour of a regime which has minimum licensing fees and rules for B&Bs and owner-occupied properties. Many of you have told me that seasonal rental income is important to your ability to live in the County; that you have rules in place for short-term renters; and have no problems with bad behaviour.
I would be prepared to consider regulations which would tax STA rentals at a reasonable rate. Models for how this could be done have been looked at by staff already. A Transient Accommodation Tax could be used. This would be revenue that could be used for bylaw enforcement and other costs associated with STA regulation.
Other factors to look at, in my view, include establishing certain zones where STAs are not allowed or where the density of STAs is regulated so that entire neighbourhoods don’t disappear. This is much more an issue in the major centres like Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington – not in South Marysburgh.
There is much information about this issue already available. I refer you to the County’s website where the status of this project is fully discussed.