Municipal affairs minister says Airbnbs amount to commercial entreprises

·2 min read
The province plans to review the short-term rental sector and new legislation is expected next year. (Shutterstock/Daniel Krason - image credit)
The province plans to review the short-term rental sector and new legislation is expected next year. (Shutterstock/Daniel Krason - image credit)

Nova Scotia's minister of municipal relations said Thursday that some Airbnbs and other short-rentals should be treated like businesses, opening the possibility the province may eventually allow municipalities to charge them property taxes at commercial rates.

John Lohr made the comments at a question-and-answer session for provincial politicians at the annual conference of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.

"While short-term rentals are classified as residential for property taxes, they are intended to make a profit, and I believe that makes them a commercial enterprise," said Lohr.

Commercial property is typically taxed at a higher rate than residential property. In the Halifax region, for instance, the commercial tax rate is several times that of residential properties.

Lohr was responding to a written comment during the session from Belle Hatfield, a councillor with the town of Yarmouth, who said maybe Airbnbs "should be commercial unless owner-occupied."

She said "a new strata of unregulated accommodations" is competing directly with the regulated industry, whose operators are required to meet health and safety requirements.

Housing supply

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, who also attended the session, agreed the proliferation of short-term rentals creates unfair competition for the hotel industry and has contributed to the housing crisis across the province by locking up some of the supply. But Rankin believes there should be some exceptions.

"For those that maybe have one property, maybe live in it part of the time, because I do think it can be a supplementary income for people who are not working, or working part time," said Rankin.

Lohr told delegates the provincial government plans to review the Airbnb sector over the next few months so new legislation can be tabled in the fall.

Gary Burrill, the leader of the provincial New Democrats, was invited to take part but could not make the session.

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