Yesterday's HRM council meeting was almost massively controversial as councillor Shawn Cleary tried to delay the city’s new Airbnb regulations that are slated to take effect next month. Good news for law and order fans, city attorney John Traves stepped in and ruled Cleary's motion out-of-order, and it was summarily dismissed from the order of business for the day.
Why Cleary tried to spoil one of the city's best laid plans right before it came into effect was a bit of a weird move for this veteran policy maker. But in an email to The Coast, Cleary said that although this bylaw change is supposed to put more Airbnbs back on the housing market he doesn't think it will. And as Ricochet Media has reported in its series exposing the harms of short-term rentals like Airbnb, stronger regulations might not, in fact, lead to these properties going back on the market.
Clearly also told The Coast that dozens of short-term rental owners have spoken to him expressing that they will face significant financial hardship due to these changes. Not to take anything away from others who are suffering under the endless crush of capitalism, but renters are also facing significant financial hardship—unlike homeowners though, renters don’t have the additional security of living in a non-liquid financial asset.
There’s an additional wrinkle here when it comes to property taxes: Depending on how owners added secondary suites, their property tax rate will likely go up. If someone turned an unfinished basement into a new living space, that’s a tax increase. Made a garage a new living space? That’s a tax increase. Added a bathroom? Tax increase. Some people who did renovations to their property for the purpose of short-term rentals may now face a higher tax burden, with less predicted income. And again, while this does represent real financial hardship for some homeowners, it pales in comparison to the hardship being faced by renters in this housing crisis.
Cleary also told The Coast that he’s heard from new Canadians who bought condos to use as short-term rentals. These owners paid a premium because their condos could be rented out as short-term rentals. These new regulations make it unaffordable for them to maintain their Airbnbs, and they would have to sell their condos for less than they bought them for. In other words, one of the reasons Cleary wanted to delay this legislation was because the legislation would have its desired effect of returning short-term rentals to the market at a more affordable rate.