Halifax sees thousands respond to short-term rental regulation survey

By Chris Stoodley

Thousands of people have expressed their opinions through a survey that shares proposals on regulating short-term rental units such as Airbnbs in Halifax.

Out of two surveys from Shape Your City Halifax, more than 6,000 people have sent in their opinions on a range of proposals.

Some of the proposals in the second survey include requiring short-term rental owners to register with the municipality and only permitting short-term rentals for some property owners.

The short-term rental issue is one the north end group Neighbours Speak Up has been fighting for a couple of years, but its spokesperson says he's glad to see so many responses from the public on these surveys.

“We see the commercial short-term rentals as having an impact on housing opportunities for people,” Bill Stewart says. “We think residential housing and apartments and condos should be for long-term residents. And we also have some concerns about commercial short-term rentals when it comes to the safety and security of neighbourhoods.

“We want to see some regulation around this area, particularly at a time when housing is in such great demand.”

Stewart says for the last two years, the organization has been saying it wants units that can be used as long-term rentals to stay within the long-term rental market.

“A key element of their (the city) recommendations is that short-term rentals really should be operated by primary residents only,” he says. “In other words, a person who lives in a home and may share a room in that particular house or property, or perhaps if they're away for a short period of time and rent it.

“The main thing is, that person lives in the house. So, that helps to maintain the community; it helps to maintain that property for long-term residents.”

Other recommendations include topics such as short-term rentals that reside in commercial or mixed zones, such as a place in downtown Halifax.

“One of the things they mention there is that any kind of short-term rental there would most likely be treated like a hotel, so they would have to pay the commercial tax rate and so on,” Stewart says. “We think, in essence, they should be treated just like short-term rentals in residential areas, and that is only primary residents should be allowed to operate a short-term rental.”

One 2019 study from McGill University researchers showed there were more than 2,400 active short-term rentals in the Halifax area that summer.

AirDNA shows there are nearly 1,200 short-term rentals that are listed. Of those, 77 per cent are entire home rentals.

“While we may not see a lot of people travelling these days, these are properties that are listed that — in a sense — are taken off the market for people who want to rent long-term,” he said. “It's important that we get some regulation around this soon.”

The Short-Term Rentals survey for Shape Your City Halifax is still seeking responses from the public on 21 questions that takes roughly 10 minutes to complete. The survey closes on Jan. 31.

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