Ottawa moving toward regulating Airbnb

Residents 'don't want to live in a neighbourhood of hotels,' councillor says
Airbnb

Ottawa is taking the first steps towards implementing regulations on Airbnb and other short-term rental services.

Council approved a motion, brought by Coun.Diane Deans, to prompt a bylaw review.

“We need some tools to address this,” she told council, noting that the review would serve as a starting point for dealing with the issues.

Deans said that residents in her ward have complained about a particularly troublesome unit, which has been advertised to sports teams. Guests at the unit have thrown beer bottles and cigarette butts into nearby properties, she said.

Though the exact form of local regulation is yet to be determined, cities like Toronto and Vancouver have recently instituted regulations that require property owners to register with the city. They’ve also placed limits on the number of days a unit can be rented.

Christy Allen, a condominium lawyer with Davidson Houle Allen, applauded the move to regulate Airbnb and other similar services.

“I think it’s one of these things that slips through a lot of loopholes,” she said.

 “Ottawa is becoming more and more urban. Especially with the number of units available, it’s not a bad idea to think about regulating it.”

Alex Dagg, a spokesperson for Airbnb in Canada, said that the company is committed to working with the city “to develop smart, easy-to-follow regulations that support home sharing.”

Data from AirDNA, a third-party service that aggregates Airbnb data, shows that there are currently more than 3,600 active listings in Ottawa being rented by over 2,500 hosts. Airbnb’s own data claims that that host and guest spending contributed nearly $32 million to the Ottawa economy and supported 390 jobs in 2016.

 Other councillors voiced support for the idea of regulating Airbnb.

Residents don’t want to live in a “neighbourhood of hotels,” said Coun. Rick Chiarelli. “Just because you have a technology that lets you do something that is currently illegal … doesn’t let you change the law.”

Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association, said in an interview that “Ottawa would be wise to look at the regulations on short-term rentals developed in Toronto and Vancouver…. A lot of the leg work has already been done.”

Ball added that members of the OGHA are generally supportive of the spirit in which Airbnb operates.

How other cities have regulated Airbnb:

Toronto: Proposed rules say residents can rent only their primary residence, and would need to register, pay a fee to the city, and provide safety/emergency information.

Vancouver: Residents would require a business license, and would not be able to rent out a secondary residence.

San Francisco: Can only rent for a max of 90 days per year, and are not permitted to list their unit at a higher price than what they pay their landlord.

This article originally appeared in Metro News.