Licensing by-law a good start to regulating Belleville STAs

Belleville city clerk Matt MacDonald says a by-law regulating short-term accommodation properties approved by council on Monday will go through some amendments as it carries forward. INQUINTE.CA FILE PHOTO

Licensing by-law a good start to regulating Belleville STAs

  • March 28, 2022 - 9:35 PM
  • Brock Ormond
  • News, Quinte

The approval of a by-law to regulate short-term accommodation is being deemed a good starting point towards managing these properties.

An amended by-law was approved at a council meeting Monday that would require any person running a bed-and-breakfast, Air BnB or other STA

It will include owner provisions such as locating a second dwelling unit on the same lot as the STA dwelling, creating a minimum separation distance of 100 metres between STA dwellings and not having more than 150 licenses at one time in the city.

Part of the amendment including wording that would exempt the 100-meter setback separation requirements for properties in the geographical area comprised of the Belleville Downtown Improvement Association.

The by-law also states a licensee also should provide to the city the name and contact information of the owner or owner's agent who can be readily contacted within 30 minutes and respond to an emergency or contravention of any city by-law, including attendance on site of the STA dwelling within 60 minutes of being notified of the occurrence.

City Clerk Matt MacDonald explained one of the biggest issues they’ve heard from municipalities who have ran an STA licensing program, including Prince Edward County, is the unlimited number of properties that are allowed.

Not capping STA properties has led to reported impacts on the rental housing market in those cities and towns.

“The 150 number may have to go up depending on what we what we learn,” he explained.

“If we get to that 150 very quickly, and we realize that there are more already active, I don't think that it will be council's wish that we just ignore the fact that there are still people operating them in the community.”

MacDonald said he will be bringing a report back to council to ask if it’s their wish to increase the number.

Since the STA licensing issues came to the forefront, Belleville councillors around the table noted they have received criticism from STA owners around the area.

Coun. Kelly McCaw reiterated her stance that “uninvested investors” from outside the Quinte region are tapping into the lucrative STA business and pushing locals out.

“We discussed at the last council meeting the mass speculative buying and boarding 10-15 people in a house. We have people renting by the rooms, we have all sorts of issues.

“Many of them don't care about our community. It's a profit. It's a money-making thing.”

McCaw noted the provincial Residential Tenancies Act is exacerbating the issue.

“Landlords have issues with tenants, there are unsavory tenants everywhere. I used to be a landlord, and I had a slew of them. I understand it can cost tens of thousands in some cases In repairs or issues, so you can understand why these individuals turn to short term accommodation. They just simply don't have to put up with what they have to put up with as long-term landlords.

McCaw and Coun. Chris Malette noted they have received messages of confusion from traditional landlords who are part of the Quinte Landlords Association who have regular apartment buildings that thought the STA by-law was an attack on them.

One particular small BnB owner Malette heard from said she moved from Ottawa where she operated a successful business, reasoning that she’s alone and retired and only wanted to rent out two rooms.

“This is not the kind of person that we're trying to put out of business,” he clarified.

“We're not trying to put anyone out of business, we're trying to get a handle on what's really an out of control situation that's gobbling up legitimate rental properties for legitimate people who need affordable accommodation.”

He added staff and the city should come out with clear messaging to address any misunderstandings current and prospective STA owners may have

Coun. Tyler Allsopp stated he has received calls from people who say that they are the sole owner of one house, and they rent out rooms in their house in order to be able to deal with rising inflation costs and mortgage rates.

“Some people upon renewal are going to be facing significantly higher rates than if they bought during the pandemic at record low rates,” he noted.

He asked if other municipalities have instituted exemptions for people who are the owner and resident of the home that they're renting out, to avoid tying up additional housing stock by only renting out rooms on a temporary basis and whether it would be feasible in Belleville.

MacDonald replied by saying the majority of municipalities don’t differentiate between these businesses, which is a problem that could present itself in Belleville.

“A lot of municipalities are doing it based on a room rate, which is significantly more expensive, and some of our fees are surprisingly high looking at them,” he explained. “More municipalities than not are looking at how they can find more and make sure that the playing field is level.”

Coun. Sean Kelly said this by-law is a long-time coming.

“We hear reports of these homes, and the front yard looks like a car lot. Nobody answers the door, there's 10 or 11 people in there. There's debris all over, there's garbage, nobody's taking responsibility for their city, and their neighbors are frustrated. This to me is bigger than the short term accommodations.”

The by-law will go into effect immediately and legally existing STAs would have until April 30th to obtain a licence.

The original deadline was March 31st, this Thursday.

MacDonald said the city will be encouraging short term accommodation owners to register for the program and will be actively engaging with them if they're not in compliance with the by-law.

Applications are $1,000 for a new application and $300 for a renewal, but these fees do not apply to rentals of 31 days or more.

Those fees will be mostly used for inspection of the properties.

Read More: Today's News, News, Quinte

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