The growing number of short-term rental (STR) accommodations in Hinton will remain unregulated into the new year as Hinton’s administration continues work on the STR bylaw.
The draft STR Bylaw was pushed to Jan. 11 for further discussion after council expressed concerns with the current draft version during the regular council meeting on Nov. 15.
Those concerns include grandfathering all current short-term rental (STR) properties, the requirements and cost-recovery around safety standard inspections, the inclusion of “host responsibilities”, the less stringent standards for non-resident STR providers, and the complaint-based enforcement.
“When we take it to the public I think we should be comfortable with what we’re presenting,” said Coun. Brian Laberge at the meeting.
Visitors looking to spend some time in Hinton can currently choose from roughly 90 different STRs and council is not comfortable relieving all these accommodations from permitting, licensing, and inspection requirements by way of grandfathering.
Instead they directed administration to include options in the draft bylaw around a transitional grace period for existing STR accommodations before they must meet all permit and licensing requirements.
Coun. Trevor Haas noted that the whole point of the regulations around STRs is to track how many there are and gain some control over issues like STR safety and parking, which wouldn’t be achieved if current STRs were grandfathered in.
The draft bylaw will also include that all safety and accommodation inspections be completed prior to the application process. Council considered including that the costs of these inspections would fall on the applicant, but Laberge noted that if inspections are required ahead of the application then costs will have been paid already.
Council then requested that the “host responsibilities” as outlined by administration in the STR information package for guests, be included in the draft bylaw. These “host responsibilities” include a list of requirements by the STR provider, such as permitting, licensing, and other rules.
The reason this was not included in the draft bylaw already was because some of those responsibilities are outside of the Town’s jurisdiction and instead fall under Alberta Safety Codes and the Fire Authority, explained Lorraine Walker, Hinton’s municipal planner.
“We will be requiring one off-street parking stall per guest suite per STR, it wasn’t in the actual [draft] bylaw but in the guideline,” Walker noted, adding that they can include that in the next draft.
STRs would be considered as a home-based business and require a development permit and a business license.
Under the current draft, a development permit would not be required if the operator does not reside at the rental premises, while a business license is required regardless of where the operator resides.
Council wanted to ensure that both applicants would be held to at least the same standard.
Coun. Albert Ostashek voiced his concern with less stringent requirements for non-resident STR providers who may not be able to provide ongoing monitoring of their guests’ activities.
Administration noted they needed to do more research into how to level the standard for all applicants.
A building permit may be required if there are any changes to the physical floor plan and renovations would trigger a building and fire inspection. Once a development permit is issued, Alberta Health Services is notified.
Under the business license bylaw, there is an enforcement section where the Town can fine for non-compliance.
“If they’re not compliant with their business license then we have the authority to go in and mitigate through this business license bylaw,” said Walker.
STRs provide accommodations to travellers through online platforms such as Airbnb, Home Away, Flip Key, and VRBO.
The rapid growth of the market has seen increasing concerns about standards and safety shared by guests, owners, and communities, stated administration’s report.
According to their report, there is an estimate of 90 STRs on the market in Hinton.
There are no federal or municipal regulations around STRs currently, but the provincial government introduced a Tourism Levy Bill on April 1, 2021, equivalent to a hotel tax.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice