Councillor John Tamming provided the following argument last Monday night for his motion to ban short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods unless it is part of a residence occupied by the owner. The motion was defeated.

You are having a nice BBQ with your spouse. You are reading Alice Munro in the back yard, underneath an awning. It’s been a hard week at work and you are looking forward to a glass of chianti, a good book, a conversation with your granddaughter and some quiet.

You then hear a massively loud F bomb from the house next to you. People are yelling – there’s pool, a pool! More F bombs. 6 people gather. Then 10. Then 14. The party gets louder and louder. The jokes more offensive. Next weekend, rinse and repeat: A different group but the same number of people, the same attitudes and the same ruined days of summer.

Your neighbour’s house is no longer a home in any sense of that term. It is now a pop up motel. But worse, it is a motel without any supervision, a motel without a front desk.

These short term visitors have, by definition, no investment in your neighbourhood. They do not walk your dog, look in on the elderly woman across the street, have their kid cut someone’s front lawn. No. By definition, they are transient. They are the residue of the short term rental model - a business model where the profits are hoarded by the owner and the trash, traffic, noise externalized. Fourth Avenue West, the back entrance to Harrison Park, Mill Pond, Blacks Park, Malibu Heights - these are no longer places of memory and of neighboring. Instead, they are rendered commodities.

And those commodities exist solely to spin off maximum margins. Two thousand a night in Owen Sound? You bet your money.

Some argue that this is just a form of NIMBYism. I disagree. This spring, the Premier proposed sweeping changes for all neighbourhoods; for example, in larger cities, people could as of right toss a fourplex up in place of their single house or could convert their house to a triplex. This would provide housing for long term tenants and I say bring it on. I hope municipal politicians have the courage next term to bring this to fruition.

Neighborhoods will have to change; we have a massive housing shortage. But short term accommodations do nothing for this.

My motion says to ban the things in solely residential neighbourhoods. Just ban them. Goderich did (by a hardline and accurate interpretation of what an R1 zoning would permit). London did. Collingwood did. Allow short term rentals of a portion of a home occupied by an owner. Some argue we need a study. Why? Other places have already done the homework. Ban the things today in residential neighborhoods. Then study them for other zones in the city. You can do both.

Some say that the matter is not urgent. But we have a housing crisis. An urgent one. We need every lever we can get. Study after study has shown that short term rentals displace long term tenancies.  Let’s act with some celerity.  If it only frees up five houses for long term tenancies, that is not a wasted effort.  We don’t need to wait for a 2023 study and for action at the soonest in two years.  Would it not be neat for the councillors here to be able to hit the hustings and to say we did this pretty good thing for the housing crisis?

Some argue that we can regulate STRS in residential neighbourhoods.  Enforce our noise bylaws!  Have capacity limits!.  But who will do the enforcement?
Bylaw closes at 4:30 pm and our bylaw enforcement is kind of stretched thin as it is.  Are we going to expand our bylaw department?  That would only chew up the modest money we hope to make with the 4% accommodations tax. The police?  They have zero interest in counting noses at one in the morning and, I suspect, almost no spare capacity for such tedious discussions.

People know their neighborhoods.  They will sense immediately if a house is converted to a short term rental motel.  Companies exist which can spot illegal short term rentals online.  Enforcing a complete ban is not heavy lifting; but regulating the things with capacity and other limits is not going to happen. 



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