Residents of an Upper Prince Street neighbourhood say they are shocked that a brand-new apartment complex under construction in the area will be used for Airbnb.
The 11-unit complex is being constructed on the corner of Upper Prince and Young Streets in Charlottetown. Three houses at 10, 12 and 14 Young St. have been demolished to make way for the new build, which will also include a bed and breakfast at 153 Upper Prince St.
Shona Pottinger, who lives in the area, found out the new units were not intended for long-term rental when she inquired about renting one of them.
She said she was disappointed to find units would not be rented on a yearly lease but would instead be put out to short-term rental for the summer months on sites like Airbnb.
Pottinger, who works as a music therapist, currently rents a house with a roommate in the area. She said that she is luckier than many tenants in the city but is frustrated by the lack of options in the housing market.
"I'm mid-30s, single income, self-employed. But like everyone, you come to a point where you'd like your own space,” Pottinger said. “But it's not affordable. And when it is affordable, there are over 200 applicants for any unit that comes up."
According to Coun. Greg Rivard, city permits were granted for the project after council was presented with plans for long-term rental housing on the site.
"I found out, as early as last week, that the owner of the property – of the building – their plans changed. They want to use it for short-term rentals," Rivard said.
Charlottetown is in the midst of a rental crunch. Last fall, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation pegged the city’s vacancy rate at 0.9 per cent.
But Rivard said the city’s hands are tied. He said there are currently no bylaws that oblige the owner to rent the brand-new units to long-term tenants.
"There's nothing from the city perspective that deals with that. It's a provincial issue when it comes to the short-term housing," he said.
A representative from the province said P.E.I.’s Rental of Residential Property Act does not restrict owners from renting properties on Airbnb or similar third-party websites.
A call to the owner of the property was not returned by press time.
Robert Haggis of SableArc Studios designed the units and made the initial presentation to council earlier in the summer.
At the time, Haggis said he understood the units were intended to be 430-sq. foot, year-round apartments, which could perhaps be rented at lower than market rate because of their size.
He said the units would be intended as bachelor apartments, with an open-concept design.
He later learned that the owners intended they be used on a more short-term basis.
"Their plan, it sounds like to me, is that they're going to do the 10-month, two-month thing, where it's 10-month rental, two-month Airbnb,” Haggis said. “It sounds to me like it’s kind of falling towards the student market.”
Haggis also said there was little the city could do without bylaws in place regulating Airbnb-type accommodations.
Other Canadian cities, such as Vancouver, as well as smaller towns, such as Victoria-by-the-Sea, P.E.I., have put in place regulations of rentals through third-party websites such as Airbnb.
Pottinger said she is frustrated with the response she has received from city councillors.
"In a small city where you wouldn't expect there to be housing crisis, they don't seem eager to move forward to help regulate. They seem more interested in catering more to the tourists versus the long-term communities that live here," she said.
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