PEI

Green Party bill to provide snapshot of short-term rentals on P.E.I. using 'accurate, objective data'

A bill introduced by the Green Party that could pave the way to further regulation of short-term rentals passed second reading in the P.E.I. Legislature Thursday.

MLA says idea is to eventually curtail growth of the industry to ease pressure on housing

A bill introduced by the Green Party could pave the way to further regulation of short-term rentals on P.E.I. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

A bill introduced by the Green Party that could pave the way to further regulation of short-term rentals passed second reading in the P.E.I. Legislature Thursday.

If it becomes law, the legislation would require short-term rental websites to start sharing data with government around how many listings they have in the province and how often they're rented out.

The bill's sponsor, Charlottetown-Belvedere MLA Hannah Bell, hopes that data would lead to further government regulation of the industry.

"Government needs to step in by actually bringing forward regulations that limit the expansion and the number of short-term rentals that are directly and adversely impacting our housing market," Bell said.

"We need to make those decisions based as much as possible on what the evidence tells us, and having accurate, objective data is a really important part of that."

Other jurisdictions, including Vancouver and Nova Scotia, have entered into data-sharing agreements with short-term rental websites like Airbnb.

Record-low vacancy rate

A CBC analysis in April using data scraped from Airbnb's website found one in every 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown was listed on the site.

Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay, who supports the bill, said the province's current estimate is there are 1,800 short-term rental units across P.E.I.

Concerns on P.E.I. about the impact of the industry on the availability of housing have been expressed for at least the past two years, but for the most part governments, either municipal or the province, have been slow or reluctant to act.

The city of Charlottetown has been considering what to do for the past two years, and has delayed implementation of any bylaw changes until 2020. 

Green MLA Hannah Bell introduced a bill that would require short-term rental websites to start sharing data with government. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Under the previous Liberal provincial government, officials expressed concerns about the impact regulations could have on the tourism industry.

A year ago the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported P.E.I.'s vacancy rate as 0.3 per cent — the lowest in the country. A new, updated annual figure is expected to be released soon.

Striking a balance

MacKay said any move to limit growth of the industry would have to strike a balance between protecting the housing market and encouraging growth of the tourism industry.

"If there's a shortage of housing right now it's government's responsibility to help correct that and that's what we're doing," MacKay said.

"There's a fine line and it's a balance we've got to make."

'We have people from all over the world come to P.E.I. because it's beautiful.… We want to make sure their accommodations are top notch and they're happy,' says Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

The legislation would also require accommodations include their provincial registration number in their online listings.

That would make it easy for the province to ensure all rental units are regulated, inspected, and up-to-code, said MacKay.

"We've got such a great product here and now we need to protect it," MacKay said. "We have people from all over the world come to P.E.I. because it's beautiful.… We want to make sure their accommodations are top notch and they're happy."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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