North Bay plans to regulate Airbnb-style rentals

Sudbury-

North Bay City Council is considering creating a bylaw to regulate the short-term rental industry, which includes Airbnb.

In a report to council on Tuesday evening, city staff said the rental regulations were intended, among other things, to reduce disputes with neighbors and ensure the short-term rental (STR) industry does not exacerbate current housing shortages.

One problem, the report says, is that these rentals have evolved from people renting out their entire homes while they’re away to people buying homes specifically to turn them into full-time Airbnb-style rentals.

STRs are popular in the north, with 87 properties in North Bay listed on Airbnb or VRBO, the major rental platforms. This compares to 181 in Greater Sudbury, 65 in the Sault and 33 in Timmins.

“Much of the rapid growth of the STR industry is the result of a shift in business model: from home sharing to commercial operation,” the report states.

“The impact of short-term rentals on housing deserves particular attention, given the crisis-level housing pressures felt in many communities and the status of adequate housing as a basic human right. “

Another concern is that the STR industry does not pay hotel room tax, which raises concerns about a level playing field in the accommodation industry.

“A few Ontario municipalities, including Brockville, Barrie, the City of Greater Sudbury, Mississauga and Ottawa, have negotiated an agreement with Airbnb to collect and remit these taxes on behalf of guests and operators,” the report said.

“For municipalities without agreements with platforms to collect and remit this tax, compliance rates have been low.”

North Bay can learn from other communities that have passed STR bylaws, the report says, and should prioritize things like minimizing conflict between residents of a neighborhood and people in an STR and finding a balance between accommodate the tourism industry and ensure affordable housing.

The report says the city can either do nothing and allow STRs to continue to be unregulated, or direct staff to come up with a bylaw defining STRs, limiting them to certain areas, and creating a licensing bylaw.

“This option should include a public consultation to seek feedback on the issues, concerns and opportunities of regulating short-term rentals,” the report said.

Read the full report here.

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