Monday, June 24, 2024

Short Term Rental Owners Share Thoughts on Upcoming Licensing Bylaw

Editor,

We have been closely following the deliberations at Meaford Council meetings on Short-Term Accommodations (STAs). We would love to be able to live by the water in Meaford full time but the reality is we cannot. We have jobs that require us to live in Toronto. It’s important to us that our children get out of the city as often as we can. We visit our cottage and the amazing Municipality of Meaford at least once a month. We don’t believe we are “absent landlords” as has been quoted by various council members.

I (Breanna) grew up with a family cottage in Tiny Township that my great-grandmother bought in the ’70s. I have memories of family gatherings up there all year long with my family. Our cottage brought us all together in the best of ways. This was the way all of us living in different cities could come together. Sadly when my grandparents passed away it became too complicated to share the family cottage with so many aunts, uncles and grandkids involved. Some wanted to renovate and some did not. I want my children (now 4 and 2) to have those memories as well and so we bought our family cottage in Meaford.

With the increase in property prices, the only way we can afford to own a cottage is to share it with others when we aren’t there. We feel so lucky to own a beautiful place in Meaford. We searched for 2 years before settling on our property in Meaford. It was the perfect place as it means my parents, my sister and her children, my brother and my family can all spend time there together.

We wholeheartedly support safe and respectful tourism, including proper regulations, fire inspections, and penalties if these are not abided by, but incredibly restrictive rules like only primary residences can operate STAs would mean we would have to sell our cottage. Our property employs many local residents who live in the municipality including cleaning staff, snow removal, lawn maintenance, landscaping, and handyman services. From January 2023 to April 2023, contractors working on roads in the area stayed at our cottage for a couple of months.

Our neighbours on either side have no issues with us renting out our property as an STA and we have openly discussed with them. We haven’t had any bylaw complaints. We take the security of our property extremely seriously. We have cameras outside our property and noise monitors inside and outside to ensure our guests respect noise levels. Our maintenance team is 10-15 minutes away should anything occur that is necessary to visit the property at short notice.

We encourage every member of Council to consider:

1. Making proportionate regulations according to the complaints you have received (16 complaints received since 2020).

2. The number of short-term accommodations that operate in the municipality that are principal residences. Staff have been asked not to perform research to inform the by-law. We have reached out to 150 STA owners in the municipality, over half that have replied are secondary residences.

3. In the May 29th council meeting there was discussion around whether STAs impact affordable housing stock in the municipality. Most STAs which are run as secondary residences are larger cottages or other properties which would likely not meet criteria needed to be affordable housing. Restricting STAs only to those primary residences would likely mean basement apartments and suites which might be suitable as lower cost long-term rentals would be taken out of circulation as they would be run as STAs. The focus of the Federal Government on the affordable housing crisis is in the major urban centres (e.g. Toronto and Vancouver) where 1 and 2 bed apartments are bought up by investors to run as STAs, limiting availability for most first time home buyers and other people attempting to buy property and making them unaffordable.

4. In terms of limiting the number of rooms and guests…… There are various formula available which could be utilized which ensure the building code requirements are met. Typical examples used elsewhere limit the number of guests to two per bedroom plus two (so a four bedroom house would be permitted eight guests plus two so a total of 10).

As long as STAs have respect for the local area, neighbours and the rules of running an appropriate STA property, the benefits to the municipality of Meaford are significant. The High Street has developed a lot over recent years and the economic impact of removing the ability for many visitors to come to Meaford will significantly impact the success of those businesses and the others serving STAs at the moment. We reached out to 160 businesses directly and the overwhelming majority of those I spoke to are supportive of STAs in the municipality. They rely on those tourists to survive, some saying over 50% of their business comes from the visiting community.

As STA owners, we are very supportive of reasonable and proportionate rules in licensing of STAs, but would make the following recommendations:

1. Not restricting this to only primary residences or grandfathering existing STAs.

2. Limiting the number of guests as per the fire code and focusing on placing clear requirements on those who run short term rentals to ensure: appropriate screening of guests, necessary security measures, and a primary point of contact within a reasonable distance from the property. In addition, imposing penalties for any noise complaints or other by-law infractions is a great way to minimize any potential issues.

3. Implementing an effective licensing and inspection process to ensure the requirements are consistently met.

Thank you for your consideration of this. We hope to spend the rest of our lives coming to our cottage in the Municipality of Meaford.

Kind regards,

Nick and Breanna Brooks, Toronto

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