An urban planning professor says the benefits of Airbnb regulation are already clear

An urban planning professor who studies the impact of short-term rentals is questioning Halifax’s decision to postpone the introduction of regulations for companies like Airbnb pending more data.

Proposed Rules around short-term rentals were introduced by city staff on Tuesday.

They would apply to the whole of the commune and would only allow short-term rentals in residential areas if it is the main residence of the hosts. In commercial and mixed areas where there are already hotels, rentals could continue without this rule.

Staff estimate this would affect approximately 400 of the roughly 2,000 Airbnb listings in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Some councilors demanded more details before voting on the proposed settlement, including the number of units that would be converted to long-term rentals and the impact this would have on tourism operators.

But David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University in Montreal, said there are already concrete examples of how regulation has played out in places like Vancouver.

“I’ve worked extensively with the city and found that thousands of homes have been put back on the long-term rental market, which has resulted in lower rents,” he told CBC. Radio. Information morning Thursday.

“So it’s pretty clear that if you’re willing to put in the effort, we can put short-term commercial rentals back into the long-term rental market and that will help address housing affordability issues.”

His conversation with host Portia Clark has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.

You can listen to the full interview here:

Information Morning – N.S.8:50 amReaction to HRM Council’s handling of short term rentals regulations

Halifax Council has moved to postpone a vote on legislation that would regulate short-term rentals and could convert hundreds of AirBnBs into longer-term accommodation. We hear from David Wachsmuth, a professor at McGill University, who studies the Canadian short-term rental market.

What do you think of the approach that the board has been recommended to take?

Well, if you look across the country and in fact really around the world, what you’re seeing is that cities are moving more and more to restrict short-term rentals to primary residents of hosts, everything as Halifax proposes here for residential areas. But unlike Halifax, a lot of the cities that are taking these steps are doing this city-wide. So you look at Vancouver, you look at Toronto, that’s what they do. When I look at Halifax’s proposed rules, I feel like maybe it doesn’t go far enough because if you allow short-term commercial rentals in all these mixed-use and commercial areas…you just go and move to where your commercial short-term rentals are, rather than really restricting them and putting that accommodation back on the market.

Would you say that when you see where the hotels in Halifax are located?

Exactly. There are sort of two problems with short-term commercial rentals. One is, you know, nuisance issues in residential areas. It’s too noisy because people are partying and I try to go to bed early because I have to work in the morning. The rules proposed by Halifax will probably help solve these kinds of problems, because you will have fewer full-time operations in residential areas.

But the other question, which is housing prices and the cost of living, the issue there is more about the type of overall housing stock in the city. And if you say well, ‘No short-term commercial rentals in these neighborhoods, but they are allowed in these other neighborhoods… you’re not going to have an overall impact on the number of homes in Halifax that have been removed the market. You will simply change the neighborhoods in which these full-time and short-term rentals operate.

David Wachsmuth, an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal, says the housing problems posed by short-term rentals are no longer confined to big cities. (Radio-Canada)

Councilor Shawn Cleary insists that more information, more data, is needed on what to do with these lists. At this point, do you think more data is needed?

I’m someone who’s really into the data game, so to speak. You know, I’m a researcher, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see this because I think at this point it’s really very clear what impact short-term rentals have had on housing. It’s also very clear what kind of viable pathways to take, as cities across the country have implemented rules. We have plenty of evidence on what works and what doesn’t. I find it hard to understand why giving staff a little more time to do a little more research would really make a difference.

Further consultation with the tourism industry was also requested. In your opinion, and based on your research, does the availability of short-term rentals have an impact on whether tourists come to a city or how long they stay?

The research that has been done has mostly revealed that the trips that happen, where someone is staying in an Airbnb or a short-term rental, would have happened even if those Airbnbs weren’t available. People would just stay in other forms of tourist accommodation. So overall this impact was not found. But I would say, to be very clear, that the rules proposed by Halifax—and really the way everybody regulates the industry—the goal is not to get rid of short-term rentals. The goal is to encourage more home-sharing, where people actually live in the units they rent out occasionally, and less short-term commercial rentals. So this is not to say that there shouldn’t be an Airbnb. He says, let’s make sure we don’t lose our full-time housing to short-term full-time rentals.

The goal is to further encourage home sharing, where people actually live in the units they occasionally rent out.-David Wachsmuth, McGill University

What do we know about the ratio of short-term commercial rentals to people sharing accommodation right now?

If you go back five or ten years and look at Airbnb, it’s mostly home sharing in Halifax as well as other cities. And over the past decade, that ratio has really shifted. And now, you know, it’s less than 10% of signups that make the majority of all the money. There are plenty of occasional home-sharing ads, which are still on these platforms, but they’ve really been pushed to the fringes by a relatively small number of commercial operators. Again, this is why, by and large, cities and provinces are looking to restrict the small number of commercial operators that have an outsized negative impact on housing.

Is this also the case in rural areas?

Since the start of the pandemic, our rural areas have seen a very large increase in demand for short-term rentals, basically because long-distance international travel has really been curtailed. So, in Nova Scotia in particular, Cape Breton Island has seen a very intense increase in demand for short-term rentals. In fact, these places are now suffering from housing affordability issues that are in many ways worse than what we see in the city. Thus, the housing problems posed by short-term rentals are definitely no longer confined to large cities.

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