Halifax regional council will consider a motion at its meeting Tuesday to create regulations and policies for short-term rentals throughout the municipality.
Currently, the municipality’s land-use bylaws aren’t tailored specifically to short-term rentals and vary in some regional plan areas.
“Under existing land-use regulations, proving the presence of an illegal short-term rental can be very difficult,” says a report to be submitted to council Tuesday.
In May 2019, the community planning and economic development standing committee requested a staff report that considered a creation of a land-use bylaw to regulate short-term rentals.
Nearly 4,000 residents participated in an online questionnaire, which saw most in favour of short-term rentals but only if the host lives on the property.
Those surveyed raised concerns about the negative impact short-term rentals have on housing opportunities and neighbourhood compatibility, but praised how they benefit the tourism industry and local shops and restaurants.
One-on-one meetings with stakeholders, such as Airbnb, the Nova Scotia Hotel Association and Tourism Nova Scotia, led to various recommendations, from taking a similar approach to some U.S. cities that allow people to use one investment property as a short-term rental to limiting them to primary residences.
The report notes short-term rentals have significantly increased in Halifax, going from 959 in August 2016 to 2,581 in August 2019.
Although COVID-19 most likely caused short-term rentals to drop during recent months, “staff advise the development of regulations should still be advanced to enable new controls to be in place on the assumption that tourism activity will rebound in the months and years ahead,” the report reads.
Since April, short-term rental hosts in Nova Scotia, except those who rent in their primary residence, must register through an online system as per the Tourist Accommodations Registration Act.
Some regulations in cities in North America include:
- Only primary residents may rent out their unit or home.
- Hosts must pay a fee, often to support cultural programs or affordable housing initiatives, to level the playing field for hotels or other large scale tourists accommodations.
- Limit how many properties one person can use.
- Maximum number of nights one can rent out.
Municipal staff recommend council have staff look at updating all applicable land-use planning documents and create short-term rental registration requirements that:
- Mandate all short-term rentals register with the municipality.
- Continue to allow hotels and other forms of commercial overnight accommodations in commercial and mixed-use zones.
- Limit short-term rentals in residential zones to primary residences and consider allowing short-term rentals of cottages.
- Investment properties within selected rural areas.
“These new and updated regulations are intended to more effectively support the tourism industry and resident’s participation in the sharing economy, while also reducing negative impacts on long-term housing supplies and residential neighbourhoods,” the report reads.
The motion also requests Mayor Mike Savage write a letter to the province to request amendments to the Halifax Regional Municipality Marketing Levy Act to allow the municipality to apply the marketing levy to operations of less than 20 rooms or rental units.
However, council may choose to wait and see the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on tourism before considering new short-term policies and regulations.