Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Municipality Taking First Steps Toward Licencing Short-Term Rentals

Meaford’s Council has identified concerns about short-term rentals as their top priority for this term of council, and at Monday’s council meeting they took the first steps toward regulating them.

In recent years, council has heard from residents who are frustrated with a neighbourhood home that has become a short-term rental. Stories of loud, alcohol-fuelled parties at homes rented out by absentee property owners have been shared with council over the course of the last term of council, and in the early days of this current term.

As was made clear during a handful of deputations to council early in Monday’s council meeting, the concerns about short-term rentals by local ratepayers continue to grow, as do voices of support for short-term rentals in a community that lacks an adequate number of traditional accommodations like hotels and motels to serve the needs of those visiting this community.

It is estimated that there are more than 200 short-term rental properties located within the Municipality of Meaford. Staff noted that there have been 12 complaints about short-term rental properties made through the municipal bylaw office since 2020.

To begin the process of addressing concerns about short-term rentals, council was presented with a draft project charter which provides a framework for developing policies related to short-term rental properties.

This Project Charter is being brought forward to Council for adoption to define the process of examining, documenting, assessing, and presenting options for strategic actions that Council could take to address concerns related to identified negative impacts of short-term accommodation,” staff advised in their report to council.

For members of council, the timeline included in the project charter would have seen the issue explored by staff over the coming months culminating in a report along with options for council to consider in the fourth quarter of this year. However, a united council made clear to staff that they would like to see a licencing bylaw for short-term rentals in place by the end of the year.

To speed up the process, council directed staff to explore the regulations that have been established by other municipalities to use as a framework for the Municipality of Meaford, and also directed staff to reduce the number of public input meetings to one. Public input will also be sought with a questionnaire.

Council revised the language of the project charter’s timeline to reflect council’s desire to have a licencing bylaw in place by the end of this year.

During council’s discussions on Monday, it was clear that all seven members of council are passionate about this issue, and of particular concern for some are absentee property owners, who purchase a property with no intent of residing at the property and instead offer it for short-term rentals.

Councillor Steve Bartley suggested that he would like to see absentee owner short-term rentals banned.

Right off the bat, I wanted to abolish absent landlords in the municipality,” Bartley told council. “They’re taking up our housing stock, they’re raising the price of housing, and that’s, I think, where the party houses are coming from.”

In addition to implementing regulations to help manage short-term rentals in the municipality, councillors also discussed the potential for generating revenues through the implementation of an accommodation tax.

Though some members of council expressed a desire to expand the scope of the project charter to include the exploration of the potential for the implementation of a municipal accommodation tax, staff advised that the process to do so is lengthy and complex, and should be approached as a separate issue to the licencing bylaw initiative.

Ultimately, council voted to approve the amended project charter in a 7-0 vote, allowing the process to get underway, with a short-term accommodations licencing bylaw expected to be presented to and approved by council by the end of this year.

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