Short-term accommodations

Short-term accommodation (STA) refers to renting out private property — from a single room to an entire house — for fewer than 30 days at a time. In Collingwood, outside hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast operations (B&Bs), this is illegal. But a search on sites like Airbnb shows there are hundreds of places doing so. The town is currently seeking public input on changing its STA bylaw (see here).

STAs have two benefits: they bring in tourists and visitors looking for vacation experiences outside the usual format, and they provide a source of income for the property owners.

However, STAs are also problematic for municipalities and there have been many negative stories about them in the media. Unlike a B&B, owners are not required to live on the premises of an STA and disasters have resulted when unruly users cause damage.

Airbnb disaster in Calgary

First, STAs compete unfairly against existing services such as hotels and motels. These pay commercial taxes and utility rates, and employ local people. There are staff in them 24 hours a day. Hotels and their like have stringent requirements to meet health, safety, building, and fire codes, and have to pay for inspections, fire extinguisher renewals, commercial supplies, etc. Standard accommodation facilities also have to have much higher liability insurance, more parking, and clearly marked fire exits. STAs take money from existing accommodation facilities. And, like mentioned before, owners are not required to live on the premises and oversee the behaviour of their visitors, like with a B&B.

Second, STAs take rental property off the market. In a community already hard-pressed to find enough rental accommodations for employees, this forces many people to go outside the community to find housing. Their costs of living increase for the extra transportation. Some look for work elsewhere, exacerbating the local labour shortages.

STAs occur in residential neighbourhoods, and without any local approval or consideration for their use. Neighbours can be negatively affected by noise, traffic, garbage, and security concerns when strangers are continually staying nearby. Neighbours find themselves having to call police or bylaw officers over complaints, pitting them against the STA owners.

Because STAs are currently unlicensed, the municipality has no effective means to identify them outside of neighbours’ complaints. The owners may not even live in the community.

If the town is to approve some form of STA, I would want it to include licensing (with a fee and a renewal fee); a requirement for annual fire, health, safety, and building code inspections; proof of liability insurance, and a requirement for fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide alarms. All STAs should be required to post information in the building about local bylaws such as parking and noise.

I would request a system by which neighbours within a reasonable radius were informed about any proposed STA and be allowed to make delegations to council in favour or against it before a licence is approved. And to be able to do so after requesting it be closed, if the STA proves problematic. I would also give condo corporations the right to veto STAs in their corporation.

I would also like the town to create a complaint line for STAs that is monitored all the time (by police after municipal hours) so that any problems with visitors can be dealt with quickly so these don’t negatively affect neighbours for long periods.

1 thought on “Short-term accommodations

  1. Chadwick for Council Post author

    Here’s what I wrote to the town about STAs:
    I believe there needs to be a mechanism to inform neighbours of an STA licence application before it gets issued, similar to the way neighbours are informed of construction, zoning changes, development, etc. If the town assumes a similar restriction to distance as the TOBM uses (120m), then all neighbours within that radius should be informed.

    Second, the applicant should have to make a presentation in public and answer neighbours’ questions and concerns, similar to the way a Committee of Adjustment hearing is held. This would be done in front of a panel (likely staff and potentially non-political appointees as well) who would assess the case and the concerns and determine if the licence can be issued.

    Of course there needs to be a mechanism for applicants to re-submit if the licence is denied, assuming they can alter their plans sufficiently to garner neighbourhood support.

    Engaging neighbours before a licence is issued will help alleviate community problems and accusations of lack of transparency and accountability. Plus it gives everyone an opportunity to speak with one another, including the applicant, and possibly allay concerns before they become confrontational.

    Also, it informs the neighbourhood that transients will be coming in and leaving, so no one will assume they are thieves or it’s a house run by drug dealers.

    Finally, a public hearing would let staff explain the rules, the regulations, and the methods of enforcement to the community so everyone will understand the process, their responsibilities (including those of visitors to the STA), and their rights. It’s a lot better to do it in public than to let a problem fester on social media.

    Please give this idea some consideration.

    And I liked the TOBM’s methods of licensing and inspections, although of course they would need to be tailored for Collingwood (e.g. possibly capping the number of licences instead of restricting STAs to particular zones).

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.