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Friday, August 19, 2022
Letter: Short-term rentals are not the problem

Dear editor:

Your Sept. 16 editorial, “Town must tax all short-term rentals,” states: “We are not picking on short-term rentals.”

I must be really greedy. Not only am I a short-term rental owner and a real estate agent, I am also a property manager who apparently “suckle(s) off the teat of short-term rentals.” (Not my words.)

When you talk about short-term rentals artificially inflating housing market prices, you can look back 10 years and even further to see that home prices in Niagara-on-the-Lake have been twice that of the surrounding Niagara region – long before Airbnb had a significant presence.

Across Ontario there has been a trend of increasing real estate prices over the past 10 years, not specifically in tourist destinations that may be impacted by short-term rentals.

There are 255 licensed short-term rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake. According to the 2016 census, there are 7,964 private dwellings (probably higher with all the recent development).

It's hard to believe the three per cent of homes that are short-term rentals are having such an impact on affordability in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In fact, if you look at the number of licensed short-term rentals last year, there were 340, so there seems to be a trend to fewer short-term rentals.

Note that the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has a contract with a third-party company to find and fine unlicensed short-term rentals. The town also has recommendations from the short-term rental advisory committee to further limit new licences, including a recommendation to not license properties with pools, and to no longer issue villa licences for four or more bedrooms.

Interestingly enough, I recognize the photo of the short-term rental in the cover article, “Only 12 of 255 short-term rentals eligible for new accommodation tax.”

If you were to look on Airbnb, it may initially show $1,120 per night, but when you look closer you would see a far lower nightly rate that is then inflated by nearly 30 per cent when you add fees charged by Airbnb, and taxes. And the taxes will eventually increase by four per cent if and when a full accommodation tax is added. Neither the property manager, nor the homeowner sees the full amount that a guest pays.

You are correct on one thing: COVID has been tough, and, as you point out, a short-term rental is not a typical business model, so, very few, if any, short-term rental owners received any government assistance money.

I can attest, as a short-term rental owner, and a real estate agent and a property manager working with short-term rental owners, I am not independently wealthy and not getting there anytime soon.

If I were truly greedy, I'm sure that there are many other “industries” that I could operate in and other more affordable communities that I could live in.

Thanks for your comment at the end where you clarify that you “are not picking on short-term rentals.”

Jason Clements