More control over the accommodation sector as it relates to home-sharing through services like Airbnb and vacation home rentals could be coming in Prince Edward County.
On Thursday, the committee of the whole carried a motion asking for a staff report to look at the impacts of the sharing economy in the accommodation sector in the County to address opportunities and challenges in this growing sector.
This follows a request from resident Angus Ross who said The County is both benefiting from and being adversely affected by home-shares activities. He asked that council look at ways to control home-sharing and possibly tax investors as a way to generate more revenue as very few tourism dollars come back to the municipality for things like roads.
“Long-term renters are being forced to look for alternative rental space and sometimes have to move out of the County and away from friends and their known community,” said Ross. “I have heard of people turned out of their apartments which then go on the holiday market. While local stores benefit from the influx of tourists in the summer, the number of houses and apartments being left vacant in the winter is growing, further reducing purchasing in the off season.”
He said he bought his house in the County four years ago as a home, not as an investment. “It is with some astonishment, therefore, that we have seen its value rise by about the same percentage as the house we sold in Scarborough,” he explained. “Although I should be pleased about this, that pleasure is tempered by the impact of rising prices on both the current community and on the future for The County and the role that the sharing economy
– Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway has in this change.”
Along with home prices being out of reach, Ross also referred to the potential of school closures facing the County, warning it will have an adverse effect on keeping and attracting young working families.
In the 2016 census, Prince Edward County had a population of 24,735, a drop of 523 or 2.1 per cent from 25,258 in the 2011 census. Ross said despite new housing being built and 1,000 new units on the way, population is dropping. He advised that growing municipalities receive more attention and funding than those that are shrinking.
“It has been said that the impact of the house-sharers on this drop is a red herring,” said Ross. “I beg to differ. Paris, France, which has the largest number of Airbnb rentals of any European city, saw its population drop by 13,660
from 2009 to 2014 – a time of increasing immigration. During the same period the number of Airbnb properties increased from less than 4,000 to more than 50,000, of which over 80% are whole house rentals. The majority of these are second properties and therefore the owners do not count in census numbers.”
Mayor Robert Quaiff said he recommends airing on the side of caution going forward.
He said he doesn’t expect the report to come back anytime soon as there are many working components involved.