PEI

Regulating short-term rentals will address 'vast majority' of problems, says Canada Research Chair

Short-term rentals are changing communities across Canada and now people are studying the topic.

'Short-term rentals are competing with housing for local residents'

David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University, says if communities regulate platforms like Airbnb it would address a majority of housing issues. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

Short-term rentals are changing communities across Canada and now people are studying the topic.

David Wachsmuth, like many Canadians, finds himself spending a lot of time thinking about short-term rentals. It's become a growing part of his work as the Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University.

Wachsmuth is on P.E.I. speaking about short-term rentals as part of the St. Dunstan's University Institute of Christianity and Culture lecture series at UPEI Wednesday night.

"If you look at Charlottetown itself, you look around the country, around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear what kind of impact short-term rentals are having on our communities," he said.

Wachsmuth points to the vacancy rate in Charlottetown, which sits at 0.2 per cent, according to the latest assessment.

It is worth taking some time to make sure you come up with regulations that are actually likely to work.— David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair

CBC News analyzed the Airbnb website in April and found one out of every 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown was listed for rent on the site.

"We understand that these short-term rentals are competing with housing for local residents and that is a problem," Wachsmuth said.

Balancing interests

Many governments are trying to figure out what to do with short-term rentals, including on P.E.I.

The city of Charlottetown announced last week it is pushing back the date of a short-term rental bylaw to March of 2020.

'If you do regulate those platforms well I think you are going to address a vast majority of the issues,' says Wachsmuth. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The bylaw was supposed to take effect next month. It will regulate rentals of a dwelling unit or a portion of a dwelling unit for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.

Wachsmuth said there is some sense in taking the time to construct a bylaw, because communities don't want to unintentionally affect other industries.

"Communities want to make sure that they're open for tourism when that is an important part of the economy, and certainly that is the case in Charlottetown."

Location, location, location

There are also other issues when it comes to trying to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnbs. Airbnb doesn't tell you who the host is or where the property is actually located until users complete the booking, and government only has access to the same information, Wachsmuth said.

"If you do regulate those platforms, well I think you are going to address a vast majority of the issues," he said.

If you want to take apartment buildings off the long-term market and convert them effectively into hotels, that's not going to be so good.— David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair

Wachsmuth said even if governments want to regulate short-term rentals, that "doesn't give them any magic to let that happen."

"It is worth taking some time to make sure you come up with regulations that are actually likely to work," he said.

Registering rentals

Across the country, governments are focusing on registering every host with the municipality or province so they are known, Wachsmuth said.

One rule most towns, cities and municipalities in Canada are looking at it is letting people with a spare bedroom or those going out of town have the ability to offer the space up as a short-term rental, he said.

"But if you want to take apartment buildings off the long-term market and convert them effectively into hotels, that's not going to be so good. I think that is kind of a rule a lot of places are going with," Wachsmuth said.

Wachsmuth said he believes a rule like that could help, but knows not everyone would play by the rules. However, he said being able to pinpoint those following the rules would make it easier to detect those in violation.

Wachsmuth's lecture is at McDougall Hall on the UPEI campus Wednesday at 7 p.m. Provincial officials have also asked for a few hours of his time while he's in town.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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