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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
10 per cent of all Old Town homes are short-term rentals
This map shows the 190 short-term rentals licensed to operate in NOTL's Old Town. (Graphic by Evan Saunders)
This map shows the 190 short-term rentals licensed to operate in NOTL's Old Town. (Graphic by Evan Saunders)

The vast majority of NOTL's 290 licensed rentals are located in historic district

Click here to view our interactive map of Niagara-on-the-Lake's licensed short-term rentals compilled from Town of NOTL data.

More than 10 per cent of all homes in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town are used as some form of short-term rental, analysis of data by The Lake Report has determined.

And Victoria Street holds the distinction of being the street with the most rentals of all, with 19 registered.

There are 290 licensed short-term rentals in all of Niagara-on-the-Lake, according to data from the town, with the overwhelming majority of that total – 190 – concentrated in the Old Town's historic district.

Details from the 2021 census is not yet available for Old Town, but the Region of Niagara says there were 1,770 single detached dwellings in the historic district in 2016, meaning that rentals comprise 10.7 per cent of all homes in the area.

In July, a 2 per cent municipal accommodation tax is due to begin, but it mainly will apply to visitors staying at hotels as the vast majority of short-term rentals are exempt from the levy.

Maps compiled by The Lake Report using data from the Town of NOTL show the locations of all 290 licensed short-term rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They are among the 8,578 permanent dwellings in town, according to the 2021 census. 

The 2021 census shows a 7.7 per cent increase in dwellings over the past five years, which means there could be about 1,906 single-detached homes in Old Town today.

Under the town's short-term rental bylaw, NOTL's 290 licensed bed and breakfasts, country inns, villas and cottage rentals can only be operated in single-detached dwellings. 

Regional property maps show about 90 homes on Victoria Street and its 19 short-term rentals represents more than 20 per cent of all residentially zoned houses on the street.

This issue of short-term rentals is significant, not only in NOTL but in cities around the world, where concerns have been raised about communities being hollowed out by rentals, "ghost hotels" and unoccupied properties. 

As well, some worry the commercialization of residential properties is helping to make home ownership even more difficult for younger generations.

In the maps compiled by The Lake Report, the types of rentals have been classified using the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s system. There are cottage rentals, bed and breakfasts, country inns, villas and vacation apartments.

Cottage rentals are shown in brown and bed and breakfasts in green.

Country Inns, vacation apartments and villas have been classified differently. They are shown as either purple, which means they will not be charging guests the municipal accommodation tax, or blue, which means they will.

All cottage rentals and bed and breakfasts are currently exempt from the tax, which is only being applied to businesses with five or more rooms.

The municipal accommodation tax is a revenue tool alloted to municipalities by the government of Ontario. Starting in July, NOTL will begin charging a 2 per cent tax on all room rentals in town but not on establishments with less than five rooms.

Under NOTL’s short-term rental bylaw, a cottage rental and bed and breakfast legally only can have three rooms. 

Room numbers advertised by owners show that of the 290 total rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake, only 12, or 4 per cent, will have to collect the tax. However, all hotels in town must charge their guests the tax once it is implemented.

In a previous investigative series on short-term rentals published by The Lake Report, several municipal leaders and a housing advocate said unhosted short-term rentals — those with no permanent residents, also known as “ghost hotels” — can be problematic for communities.

Bed and breakfasts and country inns are hosted rentals, which means someone lives in the home for the majority of the year. Those two categories together represent 131 of the town's 290 total rentals.

Cottage rentals and villas do not need to have a permanent resident to operate. That means 168, or about 1.9 per cent, of the residential properties in NOTL are home to no one except transient visitors, though the properties might occasionally be used by the owners.

Exacerbating this situation, as noted by several residents in an article in this week's Lake Report, is the number of homes owned as seasonal properties, which are often used by the owners for a few weeks, but sit empty the rest of the year.

According to the 2021 census, there are 721 properties in Niagara-on-the-Lake that have no permanent residents. At least 168 of these homes are registered rentals, leaving 553 as either vacation homes or possibly as illegal short-term rentals.

This means, in total, based on Canadian census information and the town's short-term rental list, about 8.4 per cent of all NOTL dwellings have no permanent residents.

Among Old Town rentals, 121 are either cottage rentals or villas, meaning they have no permanent residence requirement to operate. This accounts for roughly 6.4 per cent of all the detached homes in Old Town.

The municipality says it has been able to bring 99 per cent of illegal rentals into compliance through its use of Granicus, a third-party service hired by the town in 2021, partly to help with identifying rentals that were operating without a licence.

The Story So Far:

Catch up on The Lake Reports reporting on short-term rentals and housing issues in NOTL

Growing Pains: Part 1: Short-term rentals are prompting concerns around the world

Growing Pains: Part 2: Economic burden on residents and the hollowing out of communities

Growing Pains: Part 3: Benefits of short-term rentals amid worries about their impact

Growing Pains: Part 4 – Owner-occupied rentals cited as one solution

After years of debate, NOTL 2% hotel tax to begin July 1

Goodbye NOTL, hello … Disneyland? Renter struggles to afford a place in town

NOTL's affordable housing shortage erodes 'sense of community'

B&B president wants governance structure for town's new accommodation tax

Click here to view our interactive map of Niagara-on-the-Lake's licensed short-term rentals.