Winnipeg considers regulations for short-term property rentals like Airbnb

The City of Winnipeg is considering regulating short-term rental apartments — like those listed on Airbnb — to combat concerns about fairness in the hospitality market, noise in high-density areas and even activity criminals.

City development officials plan to spend the next six months working on regulations for short-term rentals that could require landlords to register with the city and submit to criminal background checks.

The city can also limit the number of short-term rentals in a specific block or individual condominium unit, restrict rentals to primary residences, and subject them to the same 5% municipal lodging tax that hotels are required to pay. .

“We want to look at some of the issues we’re having with Airbnbs,” Coun said. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), who serves as council chair for property, heritage and downtown development. “We are doing what other cities have done.”

Gilroy’s committee spent three hours on Tuesday hearing from 14 delegations on the proposed regulations, which will be developed in consultation with Airbnb owners, the hospitality industry, tourism authorities and people who live near apartment rentals. existing short term.

The Manitoba Hotel Association wants Winnipeg to adopt rules similar to those in Toronto, where owners can only list their primary residences.

“It’s the gold standard,” said Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association, which represents 100 hotels in Winnipeg.

“It talks about primary residences. It caps the number of nights. Sites must be licensed. Hosts [and] platforms must be registered with the city. It is obvious.”

Airbnb and landlords who list apartments on the site broadly support the idea of ​​regulation, at least when it comes to registering with the city, submitting to background checks, and paying lodging taxes.

Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s head of Canadian policy, said it’s in Airbnb’s interest to make sure no one uses its listings for partying and criminal activity.

He also noted that the industry will soon be subject to federal and provincial sales taxes and has no problem being on par with hotels.

“We want to help promote both tourism in Winnipeg, but also support things like local business improvement areas and money that goes towards beautifying neighborhoods and making it a better place to visit.” , he said via Zoom from Toronto.

Airbnb listings in downtown Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Airbnb)

Tougher regulations, such as a primary residence requirement, might not be needed in Winnipeg, he said.

Natalie Bargen, who owns two Airbnb listings in Winnipeg, said a primary residence requirement wouldn’t work here.

“This is going to decimate the short-term rental market in Winnipeg,” she told city hall.

“I don’t even live in Winnipeg. My primary residence is in Homewood, Manitoba. It’s about an hour’s drive from here. No one comes to Manitoba to stay in Homewood. My house will never be a short term rental. be an Airbnb.”

Cities like Toronto have introduced primary residence requirements to ease pressure on the housing market. Although the Winnipeg market isn’t as tight, Jocelyn said that could change.

“The housing problem is getting worse here,” he said. Five years ago, when you would have talked about short-term rentals here, you would have wondered why we were even talking about regulations.

“As the problem develops, I think the housing problem will become more and more of an issue in Winnipeg.”

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