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Sunday, December 4, 2022
Letter: Collateral damage thanks to short-term rentals

Dear editor:

I have been listening for several weeks to the back and forth regarding Niagara-on-the-Lake's current Airbnb situation.

I understand the income potential, especially in a town like Niagara-on-the-Lake.

But at what cost do we continue to exploit this town? When is enough, enough?

The little town that boasts of being the pride of Ontario is becoming a kind of façade.

It’s so overrun with tourists that I'm reminded of a quote by Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.”

I have already heard people complain about lines, crowding, traffic … and they are tourists. I can't even begin to speak for those of us who live here year-round.

When my husband and I moved here 13 years ago, it was to escape Toronto's noise.

Both of us were born within the region, and with elderly parents close by and a job for me at the Shaw, it only made sense to stay.

At that time, the town boasted several hotels and a plethora of bed and breakfasts, which seemed to satisfy the needs of visitors.

As an artist who works primarily as a director at the Stratford Festival, buying a home was out of the question, and so we rented.

At the time, there were several options and all of them were reasonable.

Since then, we've been evicted twice. In one instance, the home was being sold and torn down (It never was.) Instead, the house underwent renovations and was then rented out for more money.

On Dec. 1 of this year, we received our second eviction, this time so the landlord can move in.

We are the collateral damage of not only COVID-19, but the influx of short-term rentals. On our street alone 25 per cent of the homes are Airbnbs.

What we are currently facing is an insurmountable attempt to find a new place to live. Letters to the paper from out of towners who want a “home away from home” for two weeks means that someone like myself (despite losing a contract at Stratford, we continued to pay rent all through COVID-19) can't find a “home” at all.

The citizens of NOTL are at a crossroads here. Do we choose to live in a town that is exclusively for the wealthy? Or do we choose to live in a community that includes people from different walks of life?

Supposedly people come here to enjoy the Shaw Festival, but if artists like myself cannot live here, what does that say?

Stopping or limiting the Airbnb situation in NOTL may deter some people from coming here, but in the end, it may benefit this town as a whole.

There are plenty of ways to make money in this town. Perhaps some enterprising individual could purchase land and build actual cottages?

Must affordable, available housing be eliminated at the expense of, what in some instances is, greed?

Lezlie Wade