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West Nipissing could limit licences for short-term rentals

Move aims to mitigate impact of region's low housing stock
West Nipissing council continues work on a bylaw to regulate short-term rentals, such as those listed on Airbnb and Vrbo. | Stock photo

West Nipissing continues to work on a bylaw to regulate short-term rentals within the region, and council is considering placing a limit on the number of licenses the municipality will offer. That limit could be 120 licences.

Also, council wants to further discuss how to deal with lakeshore rentals — the most popular for short-term renters — and are considering putting a limit on lakeside licences. There are around 1,700 properties along shorelines, and the idea is to allow about 5 per cent of these to be licensed — about 85 properties.

“We have to keep a handle on this, and not let it spread like a wildfire,” Coun. Jamie Restoule said. “We’re already in a housing crisis across the province,” and there are “limited” houses within the municipality, he added.

“If they are getting bought up for the purpose of short-term rentals, I think it’s going to put an even bigger strain on community members.”

He also mentioned the homeless within the region, and “we’re potentially taking dwellings off the market for short-term rentals.”

Staff have been working on this draft bylaw since September, and on Oct. 19, a public meeting was held at the council chamber. About 15 people came out for that, and 57 people responded to the survey questions staff posted on the municipal website.

Most agreed that anyone operating a short-term rental would be required to have a licence. The municipality is considering offering these for $800 per year. That also includes an inspection of the rental property to make sure it is up to par.

Of particular importance to the municipality — and 72 per cent of respondents — is that the septic system can handle the guests. Owners will be required to prove the system is compliant with laws and “adequate for the proposed use,” municipal staff explained.

Half of the respondents were in favour of limiting the number of guests to eight, and half also agreed that the maximum consecutive days of rental should be 28. Council will continue to discuss.

Many agreed that a demerit point system should be used to help regulate the short-term rentals. As imagined, there would be three points per year, which could be lost for violating the bylaw, such as a noise complaint, or surpassing the allowed number of guests.

Staff will consider ways to ensure the demerit point system will not lead to “frivolous or vexatious” complaints from disputing neighbours.

The purpose of the new bylaw is “to meet the needs of our local residents,” said West Nipissing’s chief administrative officer, Jay Barbeau. “They are very hard to control,” he said of short-term rentals, and the bylaw is designed to maintain municipal control.

“You’re allowing commercial activity in residential neighbourhoods and there is an impact from that,” Mayor Kathleen Rochon said.

Staff will keep working on their draft and bring it back to council early in the new year for more direction.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.