/AH moves to survey on short-term rental regs

AH moves to survey on short-term rental regs

By Chad Ingram

The Township of Algonquin Highlands plans to design a survey for residents about what they’d like to see in regulations on short-term rentals.

During a July 10 meeting, Algonquin Highlands councillors decided the township would accept submissions from residents with their views on short-term rentals up until Aug. 31. The short-term rentals of dwellings has become increasingly popular in the past decade or so, those rentals often advertised through websites, properties where rentals frequently take place sometimes generating complaints. Some municipalities have developed regulations to deal with the issue, those regulations often requiring owners of short-term rental properties to pay a licensing fee and register with a municipality. Some of these frameworks contain demerit point systems whereby property owners are penalized if their property generates noise complaints, for instance.

During an Aug. 31 meeting, Councillor Lisa Barry said she thought there should be some recognition of the difference between someone who rents out their cottage a few weeks a year to friends or family versus someone who constantly rents out their cottage, advertising it in a commercial way.
“That’s the most common thing I hear, is that if you rent for a bunch of weeks to help afford the place, that’s usually fine, because the people who own the property tend to have more of an investment in sort of being property-proud,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “The concern I hear is, ‘They’re running it like a resort.’ So, there are a number of properties that are being purchased to be rented out.”

As a report from township planning consultant Greg Corbett read, “Staff have also had the opportunity to discuss the issue of STR [short-term rentals] with a firm that specializes in short-term compliance (Hamari STR). The firm uses computer software to track STR on the internet and is able to provide a variety of information.”

Corbett’s report indicated that as a courtesy, the company had provided some preliminary information for Algonquin Highlands, which indicated there were 216 active, traceable short-term rentals operating in the township, five of which had been added within a month of the search being conducted. According to the firm’s findings, 93 per cent of those rentals were for an entire home, seven per cent for a room. The average nightly rate was just more than $315, and 89 per cent of operators owned one rental property, and the vast majority of listings were found on website Airbnb.

“I think this is going to keep growing, as people realize their return on their investment is really lucrative by renting the cottage for 10, 12 weeks a year, and you’ve got TV shows promoting that,” said Councillor Julia Shortreed.

“It does appear that most people want us to do something,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen of the feedback the township had received, but noted there were some who were staunchly against the township imposting any sort of regulations on short-term rentals.

“We’ve also heard that, the old government hands off my land,” said Moffatt. Danielsen and Moffatt both noted that accommodations that are purchased solely to be rented out can create competition for traditional lodges and accommodators in the county, accommodators who have to pay commercial property taxes, commercial insurance, etc.
“It’s an unfair playing field, in that regard,” Danielsen said.

“There’s a number of things as a next step, that we can sort of ease our way in,” said Moffatt, “because we know there’s costs attached and we don’t have the money for the costs at the moment.”

Councillors agreed the next step would be issuing a survey dealing with the specifics of regulations. Staff will use the feedback from residents’ submissions to draft specific questions for the survey, with those questions coming back to the council table for review. Moffatt suggested a survey could be left up and promoted during the winter.