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Nov. 30, 2021 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: A rental room is a rental room and should be taxed

Dear editor:

The excellent, well-balanced articles on short-term rentals by editor-in-chief Richard Hartley and the first of three articles in response by John Foreman, president of and chief lobbyist for the NOTL B&B Association, prompted me to revisit an article I wrote for this paper on Aug. 20, 2020 ("Short-term rentals: Residences without residents").

While in that article I supported B&B operators because they lived in their B&Bs and were an important part of the community, I said short-term rentals the likes of rental cottages and villas don’t fit and they tend to “hollow out communities.”

I added that they are commercial units operating in residential areas … and the people who rent these are not neighbours and have no vested interest in the community.

I still believe that we need to protect our community, to have it more than just a tourist town. 

Lower-priced homes have been converted to rental cottages, leaving few options for the next generation of homeowners in NOTL for an affordable home ownership option. But trying to “turn the clock back” is probably futile and we should look to the future and set guidelines for the short-term cottage rental industry.

Perhaps the discussion around short-term rentals has helped to stem the flow of their growth. And perhaps those who are considering “getting into the business” are having second thoughts knowing that there is not broad community support for further growth, particularly for cottage rentals. Or maybe it is purely the result of COVID.

Total short-term rental units are down 23 per cent from last year while B&Bs, now totalling 95 units, are down 33 per cent. Cottage rentals and villas, now total 146 units, down 15 per cent. Of concern, they now represent 60 per cent of rental units, versus just over 50 per cent last year. Hopefully this number of units will continue to decline.

And perhaps the best way to limit future growth of cottage rentals and villas is to restrict the number on any one street or area. Concentration in Old Town is significant: There are 12 cottage rentals on Victoria Street (plus siix B&B)s, eight each on King, Mary and Shakespeare, six on Gate, four on Johnson and three on Circle.

Having said the above, as commercial operations offering accommodations, a rental room is a rental room is a rental room.

All short-term operations should be taxed as a commercial business. And if the objective of the accommodation tax is to raise money to support tourist facilities and services, all tourists should contribute to that cause. Fair is fair!

For the industry to say that tourists will not tolerate any increase in accommodation costs is a specious argument given the consistency of yearly or biyearly increases in rental room prices by the industry.

Hopefully council will eventually establish meaningful guidelines for the short-term rental industry and have it contribute its fair share of revenue for the town.

Bill Garriock