Peterborough Editorial: Clearly Needed Solution As Short-Term Cottage Rental Industry Grows
Airbnb, VRBO, and the entrepreneur who buys cabins and rents them a few days at a time all get black marks from many full-time residents of the countryside.
They are seen as collectively responsible for bringing the short-term rental market to residential neighborhoods that happen to be waterfront and out in the great outdoors.
The Township of Douro-Dummer is the last municipality in Peterborough County to try to develop a workable system to control the growing market.
It is not a simple solution, as municipalities in Ontario have discovered over the past decade.
One option is to restrict the number of properties available for rental. Zoning regulations can restrict rentals to certain areas, typically existing commercial areas near stores and marinas.
Others, including large cities like Toronto, are trying to enforce restrictions through licensing. Put too many people or rent to groups that violate noise regulations or let their pets run free and the permit can be revoked.
Over a decade ago, Collingwood developed an innovative zoning by-law that restricts short-term rentals to single-family homes designated as bed and breakfast operations.
A B-and-B is defined as a business where the owner “lives” full time, and no more than three rooms are available for rent. Any other type of rental property cannot be rented for a period of less than 30 days.
However, reports from angry residents indicate that the Collingwood system is failing. The city does not have enough manpower to police homeowners willing to dodge the settlement and rent an entire house or cottage to large, party-oriented groups.
Divided opinions are also an issue, as made clear in a staff report presented to the Douro-Dummer board earlier this month. There is a silver lining to short term rentals that many want to protect.
The report proposed a system of increasing inspection fees when written complaints are received. The first “inspection” would be free, the second would cost the owner $ 150 and each other $ 300.
The idea was that owners ringing $ 300 a few times would do a better job of checking who they were renting to.
However, the report also notes that short-term rentals bring “many advantages … from the point of view of economic and tourism development”.
Money is good, annoying neighbors is bad. How to empower homeowners who manage their property well while eliminating bad apples is at stake.
The licensing has had moderate success. In Toronto, approximately 3,000 of Airbnb’s 20,000 listings applied within two months of obtaining the compulsory license. Helpful, but not a solution.
The Douro-Dummer council decided not to adopt the inspection fee system. It already has zoning restrictions but these are not being followed. Pursuing a zoning violation is time consuming and expensive.
The township is also planning to put more emphasis on fines for noise offenses, free-roaming animals and other annoyances that are already illegal.
The plan is to have a solution ready for the next cottage season. This will include finding out what other municipalities in Ontario are doing.
The answer is that they are all struggling. Rather than dozens of townships looking for a quick fix, they should come together – led by the province if necessary – and develop a common framework that protects the peace of permanent residents without eliminating the benefits of a short week. -end quiet in the country of the chalets.