City of Sault Ste. Marie seeks to regulate Airbnb, short-term rentals

SAULT STE. MARIE – The City of Sault Ste. Marie is set to hold public consultations on proposed rules for short-term rentals, like Airbnb.

The city plans to limit each host to owning property in residential areas, which must also be attached to their primary residence.

The new rules could also enforce valid permits, limit owners to operating for 180 days per year, and could even enforce the 4% municipal tax on lodging paid by hotels and motels in Sault Ste. Married.

“We are trying to balance the regulations in Sault Ste. Marie, ”said city councilor Luke Dufour. “This is so that as Airbnbs grow they will do so in a way that is compatible with the neighborhoods that already exist in Sault Ste. Married.

The city estimates that there are approximately 13 Airbnb hosts who manage multiple listings in Sault Ste. Married.

Dufour said the idea behind the new regulations is not to shut down Airbnbs entirely, but rather to be proactive in avoiding situations seen in other cities across the country.

“For example, in Toronto, large sections of neighborhoods are taken over by Airbnbs, a significant amount of rental apartments are transferred to the short-term rental market,” he said.

Dufour said he has already spoken to a few Airbnb hosts about how to properly regulate short-term rental services.

One idea that he believes would be right is to grant acquired rights to those who already voluntarily pay the accommodation tax.

“It’s something we’ve been doing since we started, so we would totally agree to it,” said Gil Desbois, an Airbnb host in Sault Ste. Married.

Desbois said he bought a house next to his own with the intention of running it as his business.

While nothing is set in stone, he said the new rules pose a significant danger to his businesses.

“It would effectively shut us down because we wouldn’t be able to operate under this system,” he said.

Desbois said giving short-term rental owners the chance to continue their service benefits all of Sault Ste. Married.

From his experience, he said some families are often looking to rent entire houses instead of multiple hotel rooms, which makes their trips to the city much easier.

The tourism group Destination Northern Ontario also believes that a balance helps the entire hospitality industry to grow.

“The more options we have for visitors, we think the more visits we will have,” said David MacLachlan, executive director of the travel agency. “But we think that some regulation is good. In reality, it is a question of leveling the rules of the game so that they are fair and equitable between all the reception services.”

The city has yet to choose the dates for its public consultations at this time.

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