Short-term rental owners speak out over proposed Charlottetown bylaw

A group representing short-term rental owners in Charlottetown is speaking out, saying its members are not to blame for the current housing crisis in Charlottetown.

Terrie Williams is a spokesperson for the newly-formed Short-Term Rental Association, which has about 90 members. She said she started renting out units a few years ago and now has seven properties on listed on Airbnb.

Williams said the group wants the City of Charlottetown to consider the views of short-term rental owners before creating a bylaw to regulate them.

"We want them to hear our side of the story, to understand what we have done as far as rejuvenating all these old homes in downtown Charlottetown. How we are P.E.I. ambassadors to every visitor that comes to P.E.I. and stays in our units and how important it is to Charlottetown," she said.

Williams said many have invested their life savings into their rental properties.

'Destroy the short-term rental market'

The group met with the city on Monday to talk about the rules that are being discussed.

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Williams said the group is worried about a proposed rule that would mean short-term rentals would only be allowed in someone's primary residence.  

"If you look at the Airbnb platform, most of the listings are private accommodations. Private homes, apartments — that is what the user and traveller wants today. So, I think by limiting [to] owner-occupied, it basically will destroy the short-term rental market in Charlottetown, no question," she said.

Williams said the group's members are not against regulation — in fact they want short-term rentals to be licensed and pay the tourism levy as well as commercial taxes, as bed and breakfasts and hotels do.

Williams said the group is also open to capping the number of short-term units in Charlottetown.

The vacancy rate in Charlottetown sits at 0.2 per cent, according to the latest assessment by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

'Creating a lack of supply'

A representative from the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing said he agrees with some of the ideas the group put forth, but there's a lot of work ahead.

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Daniel Cousins attended the meeting to hear what the Short-Term Rental Association had to say.

"We know we can't have everything our way and they should realistically, and I expect that they do know, they can't have everything theirs," he said.

Cousins maintains short-term rentals have played a role in the housing shortage on P.E.I.

"We have stated repeatedly that they are one of the key factors, they are not all the key factors, but they've played a strong role in breaking the market and creating a lack of supply in times of high demand," Cousins said.

Cousins said members with the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing plan to present their views to city council.

City officials said they're still gathering information and that council will soon be releasing a draft bylaw on regulating short-term rentals on which the public can provide input.

"Charlottetown City Council thanks the group, and all residents, for taking the time to share their thoughts and information with the City," an email from the city said.

Short-term to long-term?

Even if Williams' own short-term rental units are forced to become long-term rentals, she argues the units she currently owns would not be considered affordable.

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"None of them are affordable," she said. The units are renovated and furnished and Williams said they have "high-end finishings."

"They are not going to be a $700 or $800 apartment a month. So they're not going to impact affordable housing at all. That unfortunately is a reality, all that's going to do is put them on the market. They are all going to rent for $1,500 to $2,000 a month," Williams said.

She said new affordable housing currently being built across P.E.I. should soon help alleviate at lesat some of the current housing crunch.

"That's the thing that is going to have an impact," Williams said.

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