Hamilton to restrict short-term rentals to deal with affordable housing crisis

It will soon be illegal for Hamilton landlords to rent out their properties on a short-term basis if they don’t actually live there.

Councilors passed a bylaw on Wednesday and will begin enforcing it in June, hoping it will free up the housing stock for longer-term rentals for Hamilton residents.

The regulations will also ban commercial operators with multiple properties listed on sites like Airbnb.

Those renting their own home or a spare room for up to two months at a time will need to obtain a license and provide proof that it is their primary residence.

The city hopes the new rules, based on regulations implemented by other cities like Toronto, will prevent people from buying investment properties for short-term rentals, according to a staff report earlier this month. The settlement comes as Hamilton faces an affordable housing crisis and rents are soaring across the country.

The councilors adopted the new regulation 13-3.

“We are trying to increase the supply of affordable housing,” Ward 2 Coun. Cameron Kroetsch told CBC Hamilton after the vote. “We are trying to bring more units back to the long-term rental market.”

A similar settlement in Toronto led to a drop in short-term rentals

A similar bylaw in the City of Toronto came into effect in 2019. It also only allows short-term rentals in an operator’s primary residence and has had some success in releasing rentals.

The number of dedicated short-term rentals fell by 61% in 2020 – from 8,300 to 3,160, according to preliminary data from McGill University. The researchers also discovered that more than 3,400 old Airbnb listings had been posted as long-term rentals on other sites.

Toronto has laid 131 charges against operators who violate the regulations, the city reports. It will release more compliance information later this year, a spokesperson told CBC Hamilton this week. In the meantime, staff continue to monitor short-term rental sites, investigate complaints and work with businesses to identify and remove listings without valid registration.

Hamilton councilors hope the new bylaw will make more long-term rentals available to residents. (David Horemans/CBC)

At a Hamilton planning committee meeting last week, local tenant Emily Power presented her own research on the number of short-term rental units in the city.

The University of Toronto graduate urban planning student said there are about 1,300 short-term rentals in Hamilton and 80 per cent are for whole homes rather than shared spaces.

She estimated that the regulations could bring more than 650 family apartments back into long-term rental stock.

More than a dozen other delegates expressed support for being allowed to continue renting parts of their home on a short-term basis. Retiree Norah McIntyre rents a ground floor suite in her beach house through Airbnb and says that’s how she allows herself to live there on a fixed income.

However, in recent years she said she has seen investors buy houses on her street and renovate them for use exclusively as short-term rentals, housing 10 or more people at a time, and supports limiting this practice. .

“These are homes that are no longer available for someone to buy as a family,” McIntyre told the committee. “It changes the nature of the community. I no longer have neighbors to rely on.”

The city hopes that if landlords rent out their own homes, they’ll be less likely to allow unwieldy parties — an issue that has plagued the short-term rental industry.

The Hamilton police, for example, broke up a gathering than 150 people in a home listed on Airbnb at the height of the pandemic in 2021. The previous year, Airbnb had suspended more than 40 ads across Ontario to host parties.

Short-term operators have until May 31 to apply for a license and pay a $70 application fee plus other fees depending on unit type, according to The report. Online platform companies will have to pay a one-time fee of $5,000 and then an annual renewal fee of $60.

City staff will work with the province to set fines for non-compliance, a spokesperson said. Toronto fines range from $1,000 to $300 depending on the violation.

Hamilton said he expects the money raised will cover the costs of administering and enforcing the program.

Vacant housing to be taxed

On Wednesday, the council approved another scheme to increase housing supply – a tax on vacant homes.

Owners of a residence that’s been vacant for more than 183 days in the previous year will be required to pay the city 1% of their property value annually, a staff report said at the 2022 General Matters Committee meeting.

The city expects about 1,135 properties to be required to pay the tax, generating $3.3 million in revenue over six years, according to the report.

Com. Nrinder Nann, who represents Ward 3 and voted for the levy, said it’s one of many tools councilors are using to tackle the affordable housing crisis.

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