Money Short-term rental properties on the rise in Saskatchewan

01:23  13 august  2017
01:23  13 august  2017 Source:   Star Phoenix

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The short - term rental market is heating up in Saskatchewan as the home sharing trend grows, but some say regulations are necessary. Several websites offer short - term housing rentals . Airbnb’s online marketplace has emerged as the more popular option to connect homeowners and travellers.

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The short-term rental market is heating up in Saskatchewan as the home sharing trend grows, but some say regulations are necessary.

Several websites offer short-term housing rentals. Airbnb’s online marketplace has emerged as the more popular option to connect homeowners and travellers.

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short - term rentals in that these properties rent rooms or units. While short - term rental activity is on the rise throughout the world, facilitated by technology and rms such as Airbnb, it is not having a meaningful impact on rental housing markets.

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Saskatchewan Hotels and Hospitality Association president Jim Bence says Airbnb is one of the biggest threats to his industry.

“They’ve been eating our lunch for awhile now. They’ve been incredibly creative and adaptive, adjusting themselves into the process and creating in the consumer’s market a need for their services,” he says of Airbnb’s online platform. He calls the homes listed on the hospitality website “illegal hotels.”

Bence is concerned that without regulations and enforcement, Saskatoon and Regina will follow in the footsteps of larger centres like Vancouver and Toronto. In those cities, companies commonly buy properties to use as short-term rentals, often without obtaining business licenses or following the same safety standards as hotels. The practice can also reduce the amount of housing available for local residents.

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The City of Saskatoon and the City of Regina are in the preliminary stages of a review process to determine new regulations to suit the growing short-term rental market, and to ensure zoning bylaws fit contemporary conditions.

In an emailed statement, Airbnb spokesman Alex Dagg said the company is committed to working with Saskatchewan communities to develop smart, easy-to-follow regulations, just as it has been in other Canadian cities.

On its site, Airbnb states that homeowners are responsible for checking local bylaws and ensuring their places are insured, taxes are paid, and that a business licence is obtained if necessary.

“Saskatchewan is the home of many responsible Airbnb hosts who share their homes a few nights each month in order to make ends meet,” Dagg said. “Responsible home sharing strengthens neighbourhoods and generates meaningful economic impact for the province and our hosts.”

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Microsublets and short - term rentals for vacant primary, vacation and second homes are on the rise since the start of the recession. Renting out unused homes and rooms offer homeowners opportunities to supplement their incomes and rent homes they can't sell. Renting a property for a short term

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Alla Sidorenko owns a home in Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood, where she runs a boutique on the main floor and rents out three bedrooms on the upper level through Airbnb.

Previously, she rented the rooms to long-term tenants, but it wasn’t ideal, she said.

“I couldn’t find decent tenants.”

The low price she charged attracted people who struggled to maintain jobs, and she was often unable to pay the mortgage. Eventually, she quit renting the rooms. When everyone moved, she spent nine months renovating the upper floor to repair the damage caused by tenants.

Sidorenko joined Airbnb’s hosting platform last summer.

“I just didn’t want to face the same problems with (new tenants) … Cats and dogs, from previous tenants — it was disgusting. I had to have some income. I couldn’t have it sitting empty. I don’t think I’m taking advantage of the situation.”

Bence said short-term rentals affect cities in several different ways.

“When a city’s vacancy rates are low, the affordable housing diminishes or disappears completely. Short-term rental properties further reduce the available housing for local residents. And of course, there’s no taxes being paid on that.”

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Those involved in the short - term rental industry say they do not believe that the rise of Airbnb and similar sites, including competitors like HomeAway and FlipKey, are Even with the surging popularity of new Web-based services, short - term rental properties account for “a tiny, tiny fraction of the

Short - term rental funds, which will allow investors to pool money to invest in properties to rent out (like Airbnb), are on the rise .

Housing availability is not as much of a concern in Saskatchewan right now, as vacancy  rates are high. But when those rates fall, it could cause problems for long-term renters.

The “one host, one home” policy is in effect in New York City and San Francisco (Airbnb has worked with both cities to enforce the rule and has removed thousands of listings that appeared to be commercial properties).

Proposed regulations in Toronto would stipulate that short-term rentals are legal only in a person’s main residence (including a secondary suite on the property). To operate legally, a resident would have to obtain a business licence. Part of the proposal is to charge short-term rental hosts an accommodation tax of up to 10 per cent.

The City of Vancouver’s proposed regulations are tougher than Toronto’s and also require the online rental platforms to take on some of the burden. The proposed regulations state the websites can only allow listings with valid business licences. Similar to Toronto, Vancouver is also proposing operators obtain a business licence (for $49), plus a one-time activation fee ($54) and banning short-term rentals in secondary suites.

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Carrie Catherine frequently used Airbnb as a traveller before deciding to share her Saskatoon home, The Hayloft, on the site. The home is a unique space, inspired by prairie architecture. If features a barn, grain elevator and kitchen wrapped in corrugated steel that replicates a grain bin.

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First, with the rise of popular rental websites like Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) and AirBnB making it easier to advertise and rent these properties , the number of properties used as short - term rentals in Florida has exponentially increased in the last four years.

She and her husband, Curtis Olson, hosted house concerts, community events and dinner parties when they lived in The Hayloft.

“Airbnb seemed like a very natural extension of that experience — where our home offered us a chance to interact with new people and develop new friendships,” she said.

According to Dagg, sharing one’s home benefits the local economy.

“Airbnb travellers tend to stay longer and spend more money in diverse neighbourhoods, supporting small businesses like local coffee shops and restaurants that normally wouldn’t benefit from tourism dollars.”

Catherine and Olson agree.

“We can better use under-utilized spaces when they are vacant. We’re huge proponents of the sharing economy and believe that things like Airbnb can enhance a city’s sustainability,” Catherine says.

Lorne Gill, who moved to Regina two years ago from Vancouver, rents a room in his home on Airbnb. In Vancouver, he never thought he’d own a home. Now that he has the space, he enjoys sharing it with guests, he said.

“(Airbnb) fills a gap for when the hotels are full, or for people from out of town who couldn’t normally afford to stay in a hotel who are visiting family in the hospital.”

Catherine said she believes there’s room in the local markets for home sharing.

“I think Airbnb is an excellent way to bring in more visitors to Saskatoon and give them a more authentic experience of the city and its neighbourhoods. There will always be room for hotels and other services, so I see Airbnb as complimenting those options.”

Gill’s listing, called the Backyard Oasis Spa, is popular. He’s booked right through the summer. Guests stay in a basement suite and he shares the rest of his house with them, including the backyard hot tub and sauna. He likes to cook with his guests, take them to his favourite restaurants, or introduce guests who are moving to Regina to his friends.

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Once people from the queer community recognize his home is a safe space, he gets a lot of rental inquiries, he said.

“A lot of queer people coming to Regina don’t necessarily feel safe coming to Regina … (but they) feel safe staying with a queer-friendly person.”

Gill also offers long-term, low-cost rentals on Airbnb. He recently hosted a couple from India for two months. They were new to Regina and hadn’t yet found work in their field. During humanitarian crises in Saskatchewan, his room is available for free.

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Bence said he is not opposed to situations where a host is sharing one home or a room in his or her primary residence with guests.

“We’re not against the shared economy. It’s about playing on a level playing field, which they don’t,” he said.

Saskatoon’s director of community standards, Andrew Hildebrandt, said the city wants to responsibly embrace the home sharing trend.

“That’s part of the new world with apps and the ability to share your personal space, so we want to adapt to that. We just want to make sure we do it in an efficient and fair way. There’s no attempt on our part to block it.”

Bence said he wants to see regulations in Saskatoon and Regina on par with those proposed elsewhere in Canada. Each Airbnb listing in Saskatchewan would follow the ‘one host, one home’ rule, have a business licence and be taxed on every dollar. Security and safety regulations are also necessary, he said.

“(The industry) is just ripe for some big problems and it’ll take something terrible or even tragic before it really comes to light,” he said. “And that’s what hotels offer. Every day, those rooms have security, people on every floor and systems in place that keep the traveller safe.”

The City of Regina’s zoning bylaws define short-term accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, as places that offer stays of less than 30 days. Bed and breakfasts require approval from the city to operate. Residential home stays are also included in the zoning bylaw, which can be used for short-term rentals.

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“In most cases, those land uses would be a discretionary use under our bylaw, which means they would need to go through a review process and ultimately require a review through city council,” said Fred Searle, manager of current planning for the City of Regina.

The city is reviewing the zoning bylaws to assess if the changing conditions for land use are being met, he said.

“What that might look like in regards to short-term rentals, we’re not really sure at this stage.”

The ‘one host, one home’ rule would not apply in Regina because the city does not say how many can live in a household, Searle said.

“We do regulate how many dwelling units you can have within a building, but we don’t have specific regulations with respect to what the composite mix of that household is in terms of persons living there.”

He said the challenge for short-term rentals is enforcement. Complaints from neighbours are the city’s main way of monitoring illegal short-term rentals. Searle said the enforcement process will be made clear in future bylaws.

“Not in all cases are addresses published (in the listing), so it can make it challenging at times to enforce,” he noted.

Saskatoon has a few licensed bed and breakfast businesses that undergo specific development and operation requirements. Hildebrandt said Airbnb’s rising popularity has created a need for an independent study to determine the best regulatory fit for the city.

“We will be bringing forward (to city council) an option to recommend to go forward. It’s around ensuring that short-term accommodations of any type … are on the same playing field, and of course, the most important aspect — having the safety of the public as the main focus.”

Hildebrandt said there is room in Saskatoon for short-term rental businesses.

“We absolutely are on board with the concept of (short-term rentals) and we will be working to help accommodate them.”

Bence agreed, saying, “We all have a part to play in this industry, but it’s really the illegal hotel piece that’s our biggest concern.”

Sidorenko said if costly regulations are passed, she would have to give up sharing her home.

“Taxes are incredibly high and this year it went up. So if I (have to) go commercial, it will kill me. I will have to get rid of it.”

The challenge for Saskatoon and Regina will be to find a solution that strikes a balance between fairness and prosperity.

AIRBNB BY THE NUMBERSNationwide• Number of active hosts in Canada: 67,000• Number of Airbnb guest arrivals in Canada in the last year: 3.2 million• Typical age of a Canadian Airbnb host: 41 years• Annual earnings of a typical host in Canada: $3,300/year• Number of nights hosted per year for a typical listing in Canada: 38 Saskatoon listingsPrivate homes and rooms: More than 300Shared rooms: 12 Regina listingsPrivate homes and rooms: 161Shared rooms: None

Four gold medals for Saskatchewan at Canada Summer Games .
Four gold medals for Saskatchewan at Canada Summer GamesA landmark gold medal in baseball was among the highlights for Team Saskatchewan during the first half of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg.

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