Short-term rental rules blueprint revised ahead of final vote
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Proposed new rules for short-term rental units triggered a mixed and passionate response at Winnipeg city hall, prior to the executive policy committee voting to alter the plan.
Some residents criticized the regulations as remaining too lenient to prevent parties, excessive noise and other complaints blamed on some specific units.
By contrast, several rental industry members argued they are being unfairly punished for the actions of a few, with rules that could put them out of business.
“It comes across as very draconian. There are other ways that they can regulate without essentially coming down and telling people how they are to use their own homes,” Michael Oduro, who owns four short-term rental condos with his wife that are listed through the online platform Airbnb, said in an interview before the Tuesday meeting.
The plan presented to EPC calls to impose a five per cent accommodation tax on such rentals.
The city staff proposal would allow individuals to operate just one rental at their primary residence and one other at a secondary property (where they don’t live). The latter rental would only be allowed in the downtown or within a multi-family or commercial zone. A partnership or corporation could get one licence to operate a secondary residential property, again restricted to the downtown, multi-family or commercial areas.
“If an individual owns more than one rental property (they don’t live in) and they choose to short-term rent the spaces, you can’t do it anymore based on these current proposals,” said Oduro.
Melanie Mitchell, president of the Manitoba Association of Short Term Rental Owners, said the vast majority in the industry are good neighbours who shouldn’t be penalized for the actions of a few who have triggered complaints.
“I’ve been in business for four years. I have not had any police calls. I have not had any issues that I had to go and interrupt,” Mitchell told reporters.
Mitchell said the limit on the number of properties that can be rented out would also disallow the three units she owns, since she doesn’t live in them and they are located in residential areas outside of the downtown.
Putting such businesses at risk would affect thousands of jobs, including staff hired to help maintain, manage and clean rental units, she said.
However, several other Winnipeggers shared horror stories about living next to units they say are repeatedly rented for short stays without any oversight.
Craig Penner said dozens of such sites have been created at his Hargrave Street condo building, leading to wild parties with excessive noise and some violent incidents within those units and shared hallways.
Penner said his family has called 911 seven times due to the issue, which has already led many good neighbours to move out.
“Our safety and quality of life drastically reduced when we moved from an apartment building downtown to a condo building,” he said, adding letting short-term rentals that owners don’t live in continue to pop up downtown (and not in other residential areas) would worsen the problem.
To address that concern, Coun. Sherri Rollins called to change the rules so downtown rentals face the same rules as other areas: “As a downtown councillor, my neighbours deserve no less protections… than other neighbourhoods in the city.”
After hours of delegations, Mayor Scott Gillingham raised a motion late Tuesday afternoon that would implement that change.
Gillingham also called to allow up to three existing non-primary residential properties to continue to be rented out once the rules take effect, provided they are owned by Winnipeg residents or corporations by Feb. 23, 2023.
“There are individuals within Winnipeg that have made investments in running these small accommodation businesses and grandfathering up to three (of them) allows us to provide consideration for those who’ve made such an investment, while ultimately the goal is to eliminate ‘ghost hotel’ operations,” Gillingham told reporters.
The mayor’s motion also calls for penalties for operators who offer long-term rentals under the new short-term licence, but doesn’t specify exactly what those could be.
A motion including all of the above changes was approved Tuesday by EPC.
City council will cast the final vote on the matter Feb. 23.
If approved, city staff expect to propose bylaw changes to implement the new rules later this year.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.