By Chris Drost
The community survey conducted on behalf of Haliburton County on short-term rental accommodation revealed that 55 per cent are generally supportive of homes and cottages being used as short- term rentals as long as education is provided, while 30 per cent are not in favour of short-term rentals. Just 15 per cent are supportive without any education being provided.
A delegation from J.L. Richards Engineers, Architects and Planners, presented the long-awaited Short Term Rental Accommodation Review commissioned by Haliburton County to Highlands East’s regular council meeting on Aug. 9.
Jason Ferrigan explained the project, the findings to date, and then provided an opportunity for council to ask questions.
Ferrigan began the presentation by noting that short-term rentals are complex in nature. They touch on various aspects of community and community health, including housing affordability and quality of life They also impact economic opportunities.
In the first phase of the project the goal was to establish an understanding and direction. In the second phase, which they are in now, meetings and two community consultations have taken place. They will be meeting with Haliburton County council on Aug. 10 and then will move into the implementation phase.
The effort has included a scientific literature review, municipal best practice review (both online and speaking directly with other municipalities), a community survey and public and stakeholder consultation. As part of the review, a recommended framework for short-term rentals will be provided for Haliburton County.
The literature review went back to research done in 2017 through until 2022. It looked at everything from principles for short-term rental regulation in context of housing, guiding principles for short-term rental regulation, regulator approaches based on short-term rentals issues (easing pressure on tourism, banning full/partial short-term rentals in some areas, protection of affordable housing, not entire house rentals, limiting number of nights, preserving residential living, etc.) The review also investigated the prohibition of granting licenses if the vacancy rate falls below a minimum target.
Short-term rentals were reviewed in the legislative context at different levels of government. They all potentially have a role to play in building the framework for the county.
A chart was presented to council that showed comparison for short-term rental practices in nine different communities across Canada. It compared licensing, density, occupancy, parking requirements, landscaping, amenities, health and safety (inspections/fire code) and other restrictions. It appears there is some consistency in approach. The licensing aspect really jumped out as something most municipalities are using.
In a summary of overall findings, some key areas will be considered. They include residence type, tourism, duration of stay, number of guests, zoning for regulating use, application, licensing and renewal fees and taxes and means for enforcement such as fines or a demerit system.
The community survey generated 1,547 responses with 52 per cent coming from Dysart et al, 20 per cent from Algonquin Highlands, 17 per cent from Minden Hills, 10 per cent from Highlands East and one per cent from those who don’t own in Haliburton County. The intent of the survey was to gather information about respondents’ relationships with short-term rentals and to get an initial perspective on positive and/or negative impacts on the community.
When asked whether or not short-term rentals have a positive impact on the community, a little more than half said they do have a positive impact as they increase tourism in the county. Slightly under half said they believe it provides additional revenue for property owners. Approximately 500 of the total respondents believe short-term rentals benefit economic development opportunities and increases employment. A total of approximately 630 of the 1,547 respondents expressed the opinion that short-term rentals do not have a positive impact on the community.
Council had an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation.
“This was a very informative presentation. I have one concern with the concept of duration. Have you run into commercial versus casual applications? Commercial might be someone renting 30 times over a year, while casual might be someone renting to family or someone they work with once or twice a year,” asked Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall.
Ferrigan responded by sharing a recent personal experience. He and his spouse stayed at a short-term rental recently, not in Haliburton County, where the council had a provision that a short-term rental could not rent beyond 90 days over the year. The individual had concerns that this would not meet with their business model. Ferrigan assured Ryall that they will be working with county council to differentiate between the two.
“We don’t have a recommendation yet. We need further feedback from the county,” Ferrigan said.
“This is a really important issue in our community. I get more calls about it than anything else. People are concerned about noise, water quality and septic use,” stressed Councillor Suzanne Partridge. She added that she recognizes that some people need to rent out their seasonal residence in order to be able to afford it.
“Parking is important to me. We want to keep people safe and secure while they are here. Also septic systems,” commented Mayor Dave Burton.
“I agree, we will be putting thought into that,” responded Ferrigan.
Ryall also said a lot of short-term rentals are on private roads which do not necessarily have the same infrastructure as municipal roads. The challenge is how to make sure short-term rentals are on a road that can be accessed.
“There may be places it doesn’t make sense to have a short-term rentals,” Ryall said.
“Yes, this will be addressed in the recommendations. We are also looking at zoning. Are there places where short-term rentals would be allowed? This will be part of the recommendations,” Ferrigan said.
Once the report and a discussion with county council is to take place on Aug. 10, the project will move into its third and final phase during which recommendations will be made.