By Vivian Collings
Haliburton County council discussed the need to address the lack of long-term rentals during the options report of their short-term rental review.
When considering what is to be deemed as an appropriate short-term rental accommodation during the county special meeting of council on Aug. 10, councillors considered the lack of long-term rental places in the county, and in particular, long-term housing for college students.
“I’m thinking that a student coming for a week in the summer is likely to be more of an Airbnb type of application, where my concern is that for the longer-term students that are here for a full semester, that’s a different circumstance where we want to make sure there’s still something available for them,” said Warden Liz Danielsen.
Mayor of Dysart et al Andrea Roberts said in Dysart, many long-term rental units have become short-term rental units at the economic benefit of owners.
“One of the concerns at the Dysart table is the fact that some people have opted to rent what could be a year-round rental unit to a student coming to [Haliburton School of Art + Design] from September to April or to someone who is looking for a place. It’s much more economical to rent that room out as an Airbnb or Vrbo, so I am in favour, of anything under the definition of short-term rental as anything less than 28 days, to be regulated, because in Dysart, we do know properties that have been taken away from the housing stock because it’s more economical [for owners] to do that,” Roberts said.
The County of Haliburton Short Term Rental Accommodation Review is currently in “Phase 2” of the project after meeting with various stakeholders and reviewing examples of municipalities who have already adopted regulation of short-term rentals.
“As county council knows, I’m fond of saying this is the phase where we wrap our arms and our minds around the issue and opportunities that we are dealing with,” said Jason Ferrigan, senior planner with J.L. Richards and Associates.
Report planners with J.L. Richards and Associates Gursimran Saini and Tori Ruck acquired perspectives of local stakeholders relevant to the project like Airbnb, Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Housing Corporation, Environment Haliburton, and all four municipal councils within the county.
They also held two focus groups.
The first was with Cottage Care Rentals, Kennisis Cottage Rentals, and All-season Cottage Rentals. The second was with Haliburton Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Haliburton BIA, Haliburton Tourism Action Committee, Adventure Haliburton, and Haliburton County Development Corporation.
“Airbnb said licensing will help to build the database of short-term rental owners and operators. HKL Housing Corporation noted an increase in rental unit conversion to short-term rental units, which they’re concerned about due to a lack of rental units in the county. Environment Haliburton expressed concerns about a seemingly lack of respect and protection of the natural environment,” Ruck said. “The cottage rental focus group noted that renting with them ensures accountability and to know who to contact for complaints as opposed to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. The economic development focus group promoted regulation of short-term rentals to allow them to continue in order to combat some of their negative elements that we’ve identified before.”
Ruck also shared the main concerns that each municipality raised within the county when J.L. Richards and Associates met with each separately.
“Minden Hills council expressed concern with zoning giving lenience to commercial short-term rentals and creating a shortage of affordable rental properties which is also in line with what we heard from the housing corporation. Dysart council noted that all residential short-term rental units need to be covered under the policy not just cottage-type rentals. [Highlands East] noted that commercial and non-commercial short-term rentals should be distinguished from each other, be safe, and be located in appropriate locations.”
Ruck and Saini had not yet met with the Township of Algonquin Highlands council at the time of the special meeting.
Council was asked by Saini if they would like to consider requiring either owners or long-term tenants to occupy a whole-unit rental for some time before it could be rented as a short-term rental.
Moffatt said, “I’d love to consider it, but I’m not sure how appropriately applicable it is because the situation that needs addressing is occurring now, so you’re not going to say no to people who have an entire economy or lifestyle based on a rental system.”
Moffatt said the only way to require this of rental owners is to require it of new rentals, not those that have already been renting for some time, but this would be seen as unfair.
“I think there are some things we need to give up for the greater good. I don’t see how that’s going to work without offending those who have been doing it or who will have to do it starting out.”
The rest of council agreed with Moffatt.
To view the full discussion involving short-term rentals at the special meeting of county council on Aug. 10, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYsU3r3JG40.