Charlottetown Council approves rules for short-term rentals
Charlottetown City Council approved new bylaws for short-term rentals at its regular meeting Monday night.
New zoning and development rules will mean any short term rentals must be a primary residence. Owners will not be allowed to have multiple properties and apartments will not be allowed.
A suite in someone’s house would be permitted, but only if the owner lives in the house at the time of rental.
“We have been working on this issue for two and a half years. It’s been a long road,” said Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown.
The rules will not change immediately. The Commission is considering a one-year grace period before the amendments come into force.
The plan calls for the new rules to come into effect on March 28, 2023. The board passed the first reading of the one-year grace period approval and final approval is expected at the March board meeting. .
Brown said the extra time will allow operators to decide what they want to do with their properties and staff to plan for licensing requirements and fines for people who don’t follow the rules.
“We need to put in place a licensing process, a registration process and certainly an enforcement mechanism,” Brown said.
Some councilors at Tuesday’s meeting felt the issue should be discussed further and raised the possibility of postponing the vote, suggesting the planning department make another presentation to council members. The motion to defer the vote was defeated and the board passed the motion by a vote of 6 to 2.
Affordable Housing Advocates Happy
Connor Kelly, coordinator of the PEI Fight for Affordable Housing and Cooper Institute Tenant Network, said the new rules are “a victory”.
It’s a step to seeing homes more as homes than commodities, he said, adding he was concerned when council talked about postponing the motion.
“It’s good to see he’s pulled it off,” Kelly said.
Kelly hopes this will slow rising prices in the housing market.
“The housing market has been very deeply impacted by Airbnbs,” he said.
He expects to see more long-term rentals hitting the market, although he doesn’t expect them to be as affordable.
Kelly said his group would push the council for strict enforcement.
The owners had hoped for acquired rights
The owners had previously expressed hope that their existing properties would be grandfathered. Under this plan, that will not happen.
During public meetings around short-term rental, the owners had spoken about their investment and the importance of short-term rental for tourism.
At the November 2021 Town Hall, short-term rental owner Terrie Williams said her properties are also creating jobs.
“I employ gardeners, cleaners, lawn cutters, all kinds of people,” Williams said at the town hall meeting.
At that meeting, Williams said it was important for Charlottetown and other levels of government to develop and fund affordable housing projects,
“We are residents of Charlottetown and we contribute heavily to Charlottetown’s tax base.”
Bob Gray, chair of the Charlottetown Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, said too many homes have become short-term rentals.
“It’s a great night for people who want to live in Charlottetown and can’t because there’s just no availability,”
He said too many businesses have multiple buildings and that would change neighborhoods for the better. “I think that’s a really big thing for Charlottetown,” he said.
New regulations will cause business to close, operator says
Dave Toombs, who manages eight short-term rentals in Charlottetown, said the new regulations could cause his service to be “shut down”.
Toombs said he and other short-term rental owners were disappointed with the new regulations. He personally doesn’t think restricting short-term rentals will solve the housing crisis.
“There’s never been a problem with affordable housing until the last four or five years,” Toombs said. “Until the last three years, the city was trying to build more accommodation for tourists. That’s what we were trying to do, but two years ago, all of a sudden, we’re doing everything through.”
Toombs said he doesn’t believe old short-term rentals will reappear on the rental market as affordable housing.
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“We need tourism and we provide the product that people want,” he said. “The STRs they’re closing are basically 5-star hotel rooms needed in Charlottetown to allow families to stay in the city.”
Toombs said the city’s new short-term rental regulations requiring tourists and landlords to live under the same roof could discourage tourists.
“Who would do that? Who would go to a tourist house these days? The city goes back in time,” he said.
Toombs said he has yet to decide if he will sell some of his properties.