Short-term rentals are a ‘gentrifying force’ in Hamilton, housing advocate says

“Home is not a place. It is a feeling.

A dozen housing advocates laugh when those words from a online petition in support of Airbnb are projected on a screen in a small room downtown.

For those gathered here, a home should definitely be a place – and a safe, clean and affordable place.

This is an informational workshop held Saturday at the Hamilton Center for Civic Inclusion by the Tenant Power Research Collective (TPRC). It comes just as the city’s planning committee prepares to hear from delegations on Tuesday and vote on its plan new policy for short term rentals (STR), which are dominated by Airbnb.

The city says the bylaw “is intended to limit the conversion of long-term housing stock to tourist accommodation and to return or add certain non-primary residence units to the long-term rental housing stock for people who live and work in Hamilton. .”

Ontario cities are set to pass bylaws against, in particular, giant Airbnb, but some advocates say it’s time for the province to step in to create and enforce standardized bylaws.

Home and apartment conversions to Airbnbs are a “gentrification force” that is driving up rents, increasing evictions and “removing homes from the local housing stock,” Emily Power tells the group.

There are currently 650 Hamilton STR listings large enough to accommodate families.

However, landlords can make more money through Airbnb than by renting long-term. For a three-bedroom unit, the average difference is $4,353 versus $1,498.

She says Hamilton’s proposed regulations are strong and have the potential to return some of these units to Hamiltonians looking for permanent housing.

Power is a tenant in the Durand neighborhood and a graduate student in urban planning at the University of Toronto.

So far, she is also the only member of the young TPRC, although she hopes others concerned about Hamilton’s housing crisis will join her in doing research that can be used to advocate for long-term accommodation and organize against Airbnb conversions.

Power’s presentation drew Hamilton-specific data from the work of McGill University professor David Wachsmuth, freedom of information requests, internet “data scrapers” that mine publicly available STR lists and from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation information portal.

Here are a few things she learned:

  • Hamilton’s best STR property is HillCrest Domains, which seats seven and brings in $130,000 in revenue per year.
  • Currently, there are 4,425 STR registrations in Hamilton.
  • Of these, 1,354 are considered active, having been booked at least once in the last year.
  • DOS dropped during the pandemic, but fully rebounded to pre-COVID levels.
  • 78% of listings are on Airbnb, 5% on VRBO and 17% on both platforms.
  • Most units are downtown (Beasley, Kirkendall and Crown Point). There is also a cluster on the beach strip.

  • 79% of listings are for entire homes, most with two or more bedrooms.
  • Most Airbnb listings are available more than three months out of the year, suggesting the property is the host’s second home with the primary purpose of generating income.
  • There are 546 unique Airbnb operators in Hamilton.
  • Hamilton’s STR market generated approximately $18.8 million last year.
  • The median annual income per host was $13,947.
  • The top 10% of web hosts generated 52% of all revenue.
  • A company called Simply Comfort has 42 STR listings in Hamilton.

The City of Hamilton’s proposed bylaws would allow STRs only where: the host has received a business STR license from the city; the host rents their own principal residence; rentals are for no more than 28 consecutive days and up to a maximum of 120 days per year (there are currently 679 units in Hamilton booking more than 120 days per year). and the authorities can still limit or even prohibit rentals. Owners may only use one unit as their primary residence and may not short-term rent a basement apartment, lane house, or any other accessory suite.

On screen, the petition advocating for Hamilton Airbnbs goes on to say that they are “needed.”

“Furnished rentals are advantageous for visiting families, health professionals such as medical residents, university-affiliated professionals, people waiting for their homes to close, people undergoing renovations or victims of a fire, people going through a divorce/major life change, snowbirds, artists, film crews and tourists to name a few.

On Sunday, the petition had 119 signatures.

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