Our town council deserves massive applause for taking a head-on approach to tackling the issue of short-term rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Council is moving to restrict all short-term rentals to be owner-occupied by 2024, among other rule changes.
As pointed out in the past by many frustrated letter writers, neighbours, young families pushed out of town, our editorials and now our lord mayor, these types of commercial properties in residential neighbourhoods hurt our town.
There’s no way around it, over-saturation of short-term rentals hollows out a community in several ways.
They drive young people out of town, forcing housing prices up based on what boils down to a commercial investment. They take away space for long-term renters. They drive local owners to sell and leave town. And, eventually, once the damage is done, the attraction of an area fades as the culture that once made the place unique and attractive disappears.
Sure, you’ll get a few golden years, while some small business owners struggle to try to capitalize on the tourists. But in the long term it’s unsustainable and ends up hurting the housing market, too. The only people who win are the people who sell and get out of Dodge.
We wonder if those who ignore and play down the problem in the name of making a quick profit really care about the future of this beautiful town.
One only needs to look at other popular tourist destinations, like Venice, to see the devastation of local culture that short-term rentals have caused.
While NOTL is not Venice, it’s right beside one of the top tourist destinations in the world, Niagara Falls. We’re lucky enough to get the backwash of visitors to our quaint, little town. But we’ll lose that if there aren’t any locals here to make NOTL a unique place to visit.
Arguments have been made that it’s not the licensed rental homes that cause problems, or that stopping the intrusion of short-term rentals could harm businesses like the Shaw — but those arguments are unproven. What we do know for sure is, if the town becomes stagnant, all will suffer.
Having noisy, rude guests at short-term rentals is only half the battle. The real battle is a loss of culture and identity.
Let’s not forget what made this town the way it is — the local residents.
Locals living here, shopping here, having their own diverse needs, which leads to more local business and innovation to meet those needs.
If all of those locals are driven out of town by an escalating housing market, there is no NOTL.
Having properties that can be purchased for a profit, rather than for a family to live in, is the problem.
So, we have an ask: It seems clear rental owners are encouraging their guests to send letters to town council opposing this decision. We ask residents to do the same – send letters to the lord mayor and councillors and to The Lake Report if you are in favour of these changes.
A rental home is home to no one. So let’s help make sure NOTL residences are for NOTL residents.