TLTI requests consultation on short term rentals
The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands wishes to survey the public before recommending a policy on the management of short-term rentals (STR).
At the township council’s virtual all-meeting committee on Tuesday, members continued to consider concerns raised by a group of Killenbeck Lane residents.
On 6 April 2021 the Killenbeck Lane Residents Association raised concerns about an existing STR operating from a property on the lane.
STRs are the rental of all or part of a dwelling for a short period (generally less than a month). Rentals are often processed through internet platforms such as Airbnb or Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO), but can also be processed through online marketplaces such as Kijiji. In some situations, rentals can be a long-standing, informal agreement between tenants and landlords that spans decades.
The staff report notes that the reasons for regulating STRs vary by municipality. In some places this has been done to ensure that STR operators remit municipal accommodation taxes. Some municipalities regulate STRs to ensure local rental housing opportunities are protected to address housing shortages. STR licenses also involve reviews of the property in question to ensure that there is adequate parking and that a property meets building and fire code requirements.
Some municipalities have taken the approach of establishing separation distances or a maximum density of STRs in an area.
Part of the staff review included a review of approaches by comparable municipalities in Ontario. The District Municipality of Muskoka includes six lower-tier municipalities, of which only Huntsville and Lake of Bays regulate STRs. The other four municipalities have taken the approach of providing information on their respective websites on how to be a good tenant and local regulations.
Peterborough County includes eight lower-tier municipalities. Currently, two municipalities are conducting public consultations to identify public concerns and possible regulatory approaches.
Simcoe County is comprised of sixteen lower-tier municipalities. Of these, the Township of Severn has adopted the Good Neighbor Policy approach through tenant education and information and three municipalities are currently conducting public consultations.
According to the staff review, each municipality that has regulated STRs undertook extensive public consultation before adopting a regulatory framework.
TLTI staff recommend that there is a need to undertake a broader public consultation to better understand the experiences, opinions and suggestions of the public in order to determine what the concerns about STRs are and what actions the public deems necessary.
The current easing of COVID-19 restrictions now allows property owners from the United States to access their properties in the township. In staff’s view, public consultation should be undertaken during the summer/fall season to allow permanent and seasonal residents to provide input.
Officials propose to prepare an online survey and to include a brochure with information on the existing regulations and their application, as well as a link to the survey in the next mailing of the tax bill. This will also involve the preparation of a page on the canton’s website to provide additional information on this review and the approach taken. They will also use social networks.
“Public consultation is vital for us to try to get everyone’s opinion on this issue,” the councilor said. said Brian Mabee.
“Certainly there are a lot of people who want to weigh in on this and I think we’re going to have to take pretty well through the summer and into the fall as outlined in the document to get consensus on potential areas for to do things well.
Staff reviewed the number of enforcement appeals received over the past four years. During this period, four properties were the subject of concerns regarding the use of STR. This represents a small percentage of the number of enforcement appeals received in staff reports.
Com. Mark Jamison, who lives on a private road, said he appreciated this staff-suggested approach to undertaking broader public consultation, as the size of the market will play a role.
Concerns raised in the township regarding STRs include change of use of property, safety issues, maintenance of private roads, concerns of local business owners, and nuisance complaints.
“Complaints come in about behaviors, which are really hard to regulate,” Jamison said.
Jamison added that he’d like to see something functional and practical put in place to solve “a problem that’s relatively small, even if you’re in the middle, it’s big.”
Com. Terry Fodey said he believes that due to lifestyle changes under the COVID pandemic over the past two years, with mostly people realizing they can work from home or remotely, there will be a lot expansion in the field of STRs.
“I know I’ve spoken to people who have purchased or are currently purchasing what would be considered expensive properties, and they fully intend to pay off some of that debt by Airbnbing the properties,” Fodey said. “I can see this whole program snowballing significantly.”
Com. Gordon Ohlke, said he felt sympathy for residents affected by the development of STRs in the township.
“One of the trends we’re in right now is a generation that owns a lot of these properties eventually selling them and the younger generation coming in probably can’t afford them, so we may see more and more of these properties fall into the hands. of people who don’t actually intend to live there, even part-time, and want them for rental properties,” Ohlke said. “There is definitely room for regulation, but it needs a lot of study.”
Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke gave a slightly different perspective.
“I believe a lot of people who sell properties in urban centers actually move here and live there full time,” she said. “Not to say that they wouldn’t necessarily go for a month abroad and think of Airbnbing to make up for their month abroad or something.”
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works for the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
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