Fredericton city staff will study Airbnb and the effects it's having on the availability of rental housing, with Mayor Kate Rogers calling it an "issue" requiring regulation.
"It's an issue for sure. It's impacting housing," said Rogers, following a Thursday meeting of city council's economic vitality committee.
"It's a free-for-all. In a way it's the wild, wild West, right? And so there needs to be some sort of monitor. I'm not making any suggestions either way as to, you know, doing away with them... I'm just saying there needs to be some sort of regulation."
Rogers's comments came after a presentation by Ken Forrest, the city's director of planning and development.
It laid out city staff's plan for implementing parts of Fredericton's newly adopted affordable housing strategy through the course of 2023.
The one-year implementation plan would mark the city's first moves toward putting in place some of the 13 recommendations laid out in the affordable housing strategy, which was prepared by consultants from Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. and presented publicly last spring.
The first step involves hiring an affordable housing development specialist, who would work to encourage the creation of new units by connecting non-profit organizations and developers with funding opportunities from government.
The plan would also see the creation of a grant for non-profit organizations looking to produce new housing.
It will also assess how many short-term rental units — such as those listed through Airbnb — are on the market, and at what times of the year, along with how they might be having on the availability of long-term rentals, Forrest said.
"From the staff level we feel, you know, we need to do some fact gathering and see what the extent of the situation is and then we would go back to council with recommendations based on a good technical understanding," he said.
Forrest said he's heard other cities like Charlottetown and Halifax have been having similar discussions, adding Fredericton could look to what they've proposed to help.
He also said the issue likely isn't the same as in larger cities, because Fredericton is smaller and has a tourism season mostly limited to summer.
Municipalities across Canada have moved to put limits and regulations on short-term rental services, like Airbnb, in an effort to cool home and rental costs.
Rogers said there are no rules limiting Airbnb and other similar services in Fredericton right now.
Earlier this year an elderly Fredericton couple were evicted from their home of 33 years by their landlord who planned to renovate the building and use it for short-term rentals.
Tenants of a duplex in Hampton also received eviction notices earlier this year, along with notices that their units were being converted into Airbnb listings.
In Moncton, Airbnb has also been cited as part of the reason why students have had a significant challenge finding housing this fall semester.
Up to 174 listings in Fredericton
Rogers said she's heard from leaders of municipalities of all sizes across the country who identify short-term rentals as the biggest challenge to affordable housing.
She said short-term rentals didn't appear to be an issue in the city initially, as landlords were primarily offering student housing during the summer months, which would be largely vacant anyway.
However, she said that has changed in recent months, as some landlords appear to be using what used to be student housing for short-term rentals beyond the summer months.
Rogers said a researcher on the city's affordable housing committee found as many as 174 active Airbnb listings in Fredericton.
She said allowing Airbnb and other short-term listings to grow unchecked won't just impact affordability of housing, but also will affect community life.
"If you're seeing houses and neighbourhoods that… people lived there on a regular basis, they became part of the neighborhood.
"Instead when you're seeing a constant turnover, that's also really impacting community building in those neighbourhoods, so it's a concern beyond affordability."