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No resources for short-term rental regulations

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Discussions on regulating short-term rental (STR) units in Hinton continue despite there being no proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw or the Business License Bylaw yet.

Options for regulation were given to council for consideration at the Jan. 28 standing committee meeting and include the need to define STR’s in the Land Use Bylaw, potentially requiring development permits as well as a letter of support from neighbours.

Council heard they can also amend the business license bylaw to require STR’s to be licensed and assessed, which would determine taxing as commercial rentals and whether an owner must reside in the same home.

As mentioned at the previous discussion in October, the town has limited resources to monitor and enforce business licenses or the land use bylaw for compliance. 

The town is also not an accredited safety codes authority for building, plumbing, gas, and electrical. 

Peter Vana, director of development services, said the town is working on a business case that would come back to council with options to become accredited or contracting those services.

Coun. Albert Ostashek stated that the business licensing program can be a tool to get homeowners to prove they’ve met their building and safety code requirements.

This could potentially alleviate some of the inspection work load from town personnel, he added. Through regulations, current uninspected STR’s could also serve as long term accommodation and bring down the cost of rent in the community, he continued.

As of Feb. 11, Hinton had 78 rental units listed on the Airbnb website, compared to 37 listed in January 2019 as stated in the report by administration.

“It’s not necessarily that there is a problem now, but the potential problems exist,” said Coun. Trevor Haas, who initially brought the issue to council for discussion.

He stated that rental units like Airbnb’s need to be held accountable just as other services like bed and breakfasts are.

Administration identified several reasons for regulating STR’s in their report to council, including displacement of affordable and accessible housing, nuisance, competition with commercial STR’s, collection of increased property taxes, licensing fees, and Alberta Hotel Tax, and licensing of STR’s.

Coun. Dewly Nelson pointed out two problems with not regulating STR’s are the high rental costs in Hinton due to lack of space which could potentially drive away new residents, and the fact that STR’s use more of the town’s infrastructure like garbage, water, roads, and bylaw without currently paying more for those services.

Hinton administration reviewed a number of municipalities on their approach and regulations around STR’s and found that each of the communities, which included Edmonton, Kelowna, Canmore, and Jasper, required a development permit and a business license.

Each community had their own set of restrictions.

The community of Canmore charges vacation rentals approximately triple the residential rate in property taxes.

Council asked administration in October 2019 to provide options for STR Accommodation regulations for potential implementation with the Land Use Bylaw amendments that were expected in January 2020.

Vana said during the meeting that there are certain things in the Land Use Bylaw that need to be corrected and defined to provide clarity.

Council only accepted the report from administration as information, but this doesn’t preclude discussions on the topic from continuing.