Halifax is one step closer to new rules for Airbnbs.
Regional council agreed on Wednesday to begin a process to amend the planning rules. Staff want to create a registry that would regulate those involved in short-term rentals, as well as to only allow Airbnbs in residential neighbourhoods if the properties are owner-occupied.
"This is great," said Coun. Waye Mason. "It's certainly something my residents have been asking for."
There have been complaints from people, particularly in North End Halifax, about the problems living next to what they call "ghost hotels."
There are also concerns that the increasing number of Airbnbs is partly responsible for a shortage of affordable housing.
Statistics in the latest staff report shows an increase of short-term rental units from just under 1,000 to just over 2,500 between 2016 and 2018.
A McGill University study found there were 2,420 short-term rentals active in the municipality on Aug. 31, 2019.
"A lot of the short-term rentals are old homes," said Coun. Lindell Smith, who represents the North End. "And that speaks to what we hear from residents about housing stock and how it changes their neighbourhoods."
Staff to ask for more powers from province
Absentee landlords could still put units on the short-term rental market if their buildings are in commercial or mixed-use zones.
HRM planning staff do want to ask the province for the power to apply a marketing levy to operations with less than 20 rooms or rental units.
Coun. Matt Whitman was the only one to vote against starting the process to amend the planning regulations.
"I'm not sure we're going down the right road with all the restrictions," said Whitman. "I generally like a free market where landlords can rent to who they want for as long as they want."
Last year, the provincial government passed the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act, which requires the owners of such short-term rentals to register their units and pay an annual fee between $50 and $150, based on the number of bedrooms.
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