Frustrated Winnipeggers are imploring city council to impose new rules and taxes on Airbnb listings and other short-term rental operations, arguing some operators are disrupting neighbourhoods.
Laurie Foster told council a ghost hotel (meaning the owner doesnt live in the unit) opened up on his street three years ago, advertising space for up to 12 adults per day, with no measures to control its impact.
Hotels do not belong in residential neighbourhoods, Foster said Thursday, adding hes heard complaints linked to such operations across the city.
Ive heard from many homeowners… (who) had to deal with increased traffic, noise, sex workers, drug dealers, drunkenness, fighting, multiple police visits and an awful lot of very challenging circumstances, to say the least. None of these situations should ever be accepted as normal in residential neighbourhoods or residential buildings.
Penny McMillan said the city has the authority to step in with new limits and safety measures for the businesses, which condo owners and boards lack the power to impose.
We in condos cannot do this. It has to be done by legislative groups or bodies and the City of Winnipeg council is a body that can regulate this. So we implore you to… take action, McMillan said at city hall.
She said there is an urgent need to crack down on disruptive rentals, as summer tourism season approaches.
Weve been (debating) this for months… please get this in place, said McMillan. We regulate the hotels, but weve got this other group thats just running wild.
A city report proposes council order more consultation on a potential bylaw to govern the short-term rental industry, followed by options to impose new rules and taxes.
Some councillors have pushed for that process to consider requirements that short-term rental owners: list their units with the city; inform neighbours about the rental and provide contact information to them; provide immediate neighbours with a schedule for each new arrival; and/or potentially live in the units they rent out for a minimum period of each year.
Councillors have also called for the businesses to be charged Winnipegs five per cent hotel tax.
On the other side, some sector members say its not fair to blame an entire industry for complaints about individual sites.
Asmara Polcyn, who owns an Airbnb rental unit at Spence Street and Broadway, said her operation isnt disruptive. She expects existing city noise and neighbourhood livability rules should be utilized to handle many of the complaints.
Polcyn supports the proposed rules and taxes because she believes they would help legitimize the industry and make its members eligible for tourism grants and supports. Certainly, a large percentage of us are looking forward to the legitimacy of being included.
However, Polcyn said the potential requirement to share guest visit schedules could pose privacy concerns, as could requiring the propertys owner to live on site for a minimum period each year.
Its a bit invasive, she added.
On Thursday, council delayed its vote on the matter, directing it back to the property and development committee for further discussion.
Meantime, council did cast several final votes Thursday.
It opted to take no action on a proposal to relocate the West Kildonan Library to a new leased space in the Garden City Shopping Centre, meaning the library will stay put at its standalone branch on Jefferson Avenue after residents rallied against the move.
The City of Winnipeg will formally support the decriminalization of simple drug possession. That motion initially called for the city to also write a support letter on behalf of any community organization that applies to create a safe consumption site in Winnipeg. However, it was amended to have the city set up a formal review process to ensure an organization has the capacity to provide that service before council endorses any specific project.
Coun. Ross Eadie was approved to become a member of the Winnipeg Police Board.
The public service was ordered to seek feedback on how legislated holidays could better reflect Winnipegs diversity.
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.