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EDITORIAL: Home Suite Home

Charlottetown council has passed a bylaw to create a registry for all secondary and garden suites, such as basement apartments.
- 123RF Stock Photo

It’s positive to see Charlottetown city council doing its part to ensure that renters can find a safe and legal place to live.

The latest step in the process occurred at Monday night’s council meeting with the approval of a bylaw that creates a registry for accessory apartments (secondary and garden suites).

Especially for newcomers and students, the registry and public database takes the guesswork out of finding safe and legal accommodations.

Given the current lack of housing options, potential renters desperate for accommodations may not have a choice but to live in place with obvious safety concerns, such as a basement suite lacking a second exit in the event of a fire.

The important part of the registry is that to get on it, the premise has to be inspected and meet building code requirements.

New suites go through the process right away. For existing suites, the city is proposing a transition or grace period of up to two years to allow property owners to go through the process of becoming registered and meet legal requirements. To further help out, the city is proposing to waive certain registration fees.

The province has a similar licensing requirement for short-term accommodations, such as Airbnbs. The costs include a new property inspection fee of $180 this year as well as a $250 re-inspection fee. Last year, the license cost was $218 for one to four units and $328 for five or more units. There is a fine for non-compliance, and the province monitors websites that advertise Airbnbs. It will contact an operator to make sure the business has a licence.

It’ll be interesting to see if the city takes this step and monitors websites like Kijiji looking for unregistered accommodations.

Some Airbnb operators welcomed the licensing requirements, and tourists have peace of mind in that they know they have a legal and safe place to stay.

The inspection and licensing fees may be pricey, but it’s good business as well as a requirement to be compliant.

The same can be said for secondary and garden suites.

At this point, isn’t clear how much permit fees are going to be or how much of taxpayer’s dollars are going to be needed for additional staff for inspections.

And, it’s a fair question to ask what took the city so long to put this in place. Of course, the city had to first allow accessory suites, which also begs the ‘what took so long’ question.

A downside could involve some homeowners being deterred from renting out suites. The permit requirement and cost could be too much of a hassle. The outcome could be less available rental options, not more.

But then again, we probably don’t want these landlords renting in the first place if they’re not willing to take the additional steps to be compliant.

Regardless, Charlottetown is on the right track, and the new requirements are a small price to pay to have safe and legal rental accommodations.

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