The City of Regina's executive committee voted Wednesday in favour of proposed changes to legislation that would require AirBnB and other short term accommodation operators to license their facilities. The changes will now go to city council for final approval later this month.
Currently the city has a discretionary-use approach to short-term accommodation, but the administration said analysis found a lot of non-compliance.
If approved by council, the new regulations would require operators to obtain a licence to operate a short-term accommodation unit in the city.
Operators using their primary home would pay less than those who rent accommodations elsewhere.
Fines could be laid against operators working without a permit, or those who fail to display a valid permit in their advertisement.
The regulations would costs the city roughly $75,000 to operate. Licencing and other related fees would cover the costs, the city said.
The changes stem from a council meeting in September 2018, where administration was asked to explore regulation and look at what other cities had done.
Stakeholders, including the Regina Hotel Association and a local realtor who operates an AirBnB, were asked to comment on the matter Wednesday afternoon. Both approved the idea of regulating the short-term rental market.
Local market, other jurisdictions analyzed
Analysis conducted in 2019 showed there were roughly 950 short-term accommodation units available for rent in some capacity in Regina.
Of the listings, almost half were never rented and just seven per cent were rented for more than half the year.
City administration also studied regulations in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Toronto.
AirBnB offers insights
AirBnB Canada was represented at Wednesday's meeting by Nathan Rotman, who fielded questions on a variety of topics ranging from licensing in other cities to support for law enforcement.
"Broadly speaking we are in support of the regulations being proposed for your consideration," Rotman said.
He said those found to be in violation of a city bylaw around short-term accommodations would remain on the platform and that enforcement would be up to the city.
When asked why AirBnB — which would be facilitating and brokering a violation of a bylaw — shouldn't be responsible for removing people operating without a licence, Rotman said moving enforcement from public hands to private would take away from the city's ability to enforce its own bylaw.
Rotman was also asked about possible inflation brought about by AirBnB operators buying properties and reducing rent capacity in larger centres.
"The cities that argue that are mostly cities that have a sub-one per cent vacancy rate," Rotman said.
"I was reading a report earlier that said Regina was at its highest, potentially ever, at almost eight per cent [vacancy] in 2019, so I don't believe we have an impact on the cost of rental housing in the city."
A few amendments to the regulations were proposed Wednesday.
Mayor Michael Fougere asked that an annual reporting process be created to assess the program and identify any changes that could be made.
Coun. Barbara Young asked for the bylaw to limit the percentage of multi-unit dwellings — condos or apartments — that could hold short-term accommodations to 35 per cent, citing regulations in other jurisdictions.
Young also asked for a cap on licence distribution should vacancy rates in Regina drop below three per cent.
"It doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon, but I'm wondering if we review that now," she said.
Fougere and Young's proposed amendments all passed.
Executive committee voted 10-0 in favour of passing the proposed regulations, along with the amendments, on to city council.
Council will now decide on the matter at the end of September.