Starting later this week, P.E.I. will have better tools for keeping track of the number of short-term rental units on the Island.
The legislation, brought forward by the Opposition Green Party and proclaimed last week, requires that short-term rental operators post their tourism licence numbers on their listings on sites such as Airbnb and VRBO. All tourism operators on the Island are required to have a licence from the province.
"Data's been all over the map," said Tourism Minister Matt MacKay.
"The numbers that we have through the department, numbers that the city might have, and the numbers that Islanders might have, none of them seem to match up."
Currently, the department tries to get a handle on the number of STR operators by following the sites and cross-referencing with tourism licence holders, said MacKay. It was a system that did allow some to continue operating without a licence, he noted.
The new system will allow the province to ensure operators are licensed and in compliance with the standards set by the government.
"We want to make sure everybody is licensed and doing what they're supposed to do, and if they're not they will be charged," said MacKay.
The province has also signed an agreement with STR listing sites to help ensure compliance, he said.
Jonathan Greenan, a member of the group Fight for Affordable Housing, said getting a handle on short-term rentals is crucial to getting a handle on the housing crisis.
"The fact that a number of short-term rental operators have been operating off the grid has really exaggerated and contributed to the withdrawal of full-time housing from the city of Charlottetown, in particular," said Greenan.
"If you're not being licensed, if you're not registering with the province, with the city, then it's impossible for anyone to really have the scope of what's going on there."
The province does not currently have plans to further regulate STRs, a process the City of Charlottetown is in the midst of, but MacKay did not rule out considering new rules as the province learns more about how STRs are operating.
The legislation takes effect Saturday, Nov. 6.
Owners 'in process of organizing'
Terrie Williams, who in 2019 spoke on behalf of a group representing short-term rental owners in Charlottetown, told CBC in an e-mail that the sector doesn't currently have an association, "so I don't feel I have a mandate to do an interview."
Her email continued: "Short-term rental accommodations are an important part of P.E.I.'s tourism industry. As a sector, we are licensed and regulated under the Tourism Industry Act. As operators, we are in the process of organizing ourselves to participate in the upcoming discussions on the proposed regulatory framework developed by the City of Charlottetown.
"We believe it is essential that our industry along with the province, the city, and other stakeholders come together address the impacts of the proposed regulations."
Williams added: "Personally, I always have displayed my P.E.I. Tourism license number on my Airbnb listings. I believe it's very important to do this and I also display my plaque with my license number on it inside each property. I believe most licensed operators do this."