Niagara-on-the-Lake is finally going to make short-term rentals charge the same two per cent accommodation tax as hotels do.
Although the town is taking its time, giving rental operators a generous seven months to prepare, it’s a win for the town.
As we have said repeatedly in editorials about short-term rentals, it means more revenue and a levelling of the playing field for hotel operators who have been obligated to charge the tax to their guests since July 2022.
It means a fairer system and it was the right thing to do.
This paper has been vocal in advocating for the tax, especially after our research in 2021 found that just 12 of 255 short-term rentals would be subject to the tax under rules set out by the town’s council at the time.
Good work on the commitment, councillors. It’s about time, to be frank.
Now, let’s ensure all rentals are taxed, no matter how many rooms they have, and figure out how to use the income, while also looking into a temporary rezoning strategy for unhosted rentals.
Coun. Gary Burroughs’ suggestion that a committee be established to oversee the use of the funds is a good idea. We hope the people on that committee come to the table with open minds.
The money is meant to be used to support tourism and tourism-related activities and infrastructure.
We’ve said this also many times before: In Niagara-on-the-Lake, that could be just about anything, because almost all paths lead to NOTL’s tourism industry in some form or fashion.
For example: It could be used to help restore and beautify the Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground in the way that Voices of Freedom Park has been turned into a lovely testament to NOTL’s Black heritage and history.
Or it could be used to fill pot holes near Newark Park.
Almost anything can be justified — maybe even legal fees for protecting the town’s built heritage, which is a major tourism draw.
Smart thinking allows the money to be spent wisely instead of using it on only the obvious tourism-related activities like marketing and festivals. Although some of the revenue can be used for those things, too.
The town estimates the income from expanding the tax to be about $600,000. It might be even more than that. And one way or another, that’s money taxpayers don’t have to spend.
If the town is to bring back a short-term rental committee as Burroughs suggests, then council must ensure it is not once again overpowered by industry stakeholders.
It must have equal representation from residents, including ones who are not happy with the current system of managing unhosted rentals.
And it should go without saying that it should not take another year for the town to raise its accommodation tax to four per cent.
It’s a plan that has already been suggested and accepted and it could be done at the same seven-month marker. Or sooner.