Nova Scotia

Airbnb's popularity and lack of affordable housing frustrates South Shore renters

Some renters say they can't find permanent accommodations on the South Shore because homeowners prefer to advertise their homes as short-term vacation rentals.

One family says rentals so hard to find, they're thinking of camping

Places for rent are next to impossible to find because summer rentals are taking over, say some people who live in the South Shore. (CBC)

Some people on the South Shore of Nova Scotia are complaining about a lack of permanent, affordable rental housing in the area, saying many homeowners prefer to rent their houses to vacationers on a weekly basis as a way to make more money. 

According to a non-profit group called the South Shore Housing Action Coalition (SSHAC), which is working on a needs assessment report for the area, 40 per cent of the population cannot afford housing, and permanent rental housing can be hard to find.

No where to go

Daye Crouse and her three kids started renting a place in Lunenburg when she found a full time job there last October.

She said she pays about $850 a month in rent. But when her lease is up on June 15, the owners will be renting it out for $1200 a week during the summer.

Crouse said she hasn't had any luck finding another rental that's suitable for a family with three children. She's considered staying with family in Liverpool or friends in Bridgewater, she said.

"We've even thought about camping for the summer until we could maybe find another seasonal rental."

Businesses can't house employees

Kelly-Sue O'Connor moved to Lunenburg last August with her husband and their six-year-old son. They chose to move into a family's summer home for the year, but the lease ends in June as well.

"We need to find new accommodations for their, basically, three weeks vacation here," O'Connor said.

"It's a struggle, like, there's businesses here that can employ a lot of people but there's nowhere to house them," she said.

"Even for people like me — who are entrepreneurs and want to start something and be a part of the community — but we have nowhere to live."

'Overcharging' for rent

O'Connor said many homeowners are turning to websites like Airbnb in order to offer their homes to travellers as short-term vacation rentals and that means "they're overcharging for rent way more than what somebody with the average income in Lunenburg County can afford to pay."

O'Connor said she isn't sure what the solution is.

"I don't think there's any way to regulate people taking their houses off the market and turning them into Airbnb rentals ... and you can't force people to not come back to their own house in the summer," she said.

She said there needs to be more discussion in the community about a lack of affordable rental housing.

'It certainly is a Nova Scotia wide problem'

The SSHAC is trying to foster that discussion through its needs assessment for the area. 

Dave Harrison is a development consultant who is leading that study. 

He said it's difficult matching people up with housing they can afford and suits their needs.

Harrison said there's a number of factors that contribute to that problem including: the age of housing, an aging population that's over housed, the level of maintenance needed on a home, and the changing composition of families.

"All of that is adding up to an issue for new entrants into the housing market," said Harrison   

Possible solutions

Different communities meeting with Harrison have suggested some solutions though, including forming tenant collectives who approach developers to build specific rental units. Another suggestion was a type of home share where multiple people would buy a large older home and live in it together. 

"This is not unique to the south shore, there are some differences in terms of real estate values, but it certainly is a Nova Scotia-wide problem," said Harrison.   

The deadline for entries into the SSHAC housing needs survey is this Friday.

With files from Phlis McGregor