Municipalities considering limiting short-term holiday rentals in response to housing shortage

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KAGAWONG—Billings Township council agrees that a short-term rental bylaw should be established in the township, in accordance with a suggestion by bylaw enforcement officer Arthur Moran.  This falls in line with what other Manitoulin and municipalities throughout Ontario are considering.

“This has been a large problem, particularly in southern Ontario,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a recent council meeting. “We have it here on Manitoulin Island. I agree most folks engaged in this don’t create a problem, hence the need for rules—to make it fair for everyone. I think we are all in agreement to have Arthur draft a bylaw that council can look at and consider at a future meeting.”

A recent article published on ElliottLakeToday.com was included in the meeting package to reference some issues that are commonly occurring in Kagawong as well as in the province of Ontario as a whole.

In a letter to council Mr. Moran wrote, “Over the last year, there have been concerns raised regarding township property owners who have been advertising their properties on different social media platforms as short-term rental  units and renting them out as such. It should be noted that some of these rentals are taking place and (owners) are operating a commercial operation in areas that are not zoned for such businesses. Within the last two weeks, I have received two separate complaints regarding this matter and I would feel safe to say that there are probably more of them within our township. One complainant also had a complaint of excessive noise with it as well. This is a common complaint associated with STRs. Following the events that are occurring across the country, and even here on the Island, regarding the housing shortage and the lack of available full-time house/apartment rentals and the amount of other municipalities on the Island that have or that are in the process of implementing a short-term rental bylaw (some municipalities on the Island have already implemented such bylaws), I believe that it would be prudent that the township council discuss the issue and provide directions to staff if they wish to proceed with preparing a short-term rental bylaw for Billings Township.”

Mayor Anderson pointed to the article which highlighted how short-term vacation rentals are “ruining the neighbourhood” was good background material and, along with the two municipal bylaws already in place on Manitoulin, would be helpful in creating an effective short-term rental bylaw for Billings Township. He said he has heard complaints of people renting out their homes to cottagers for a short time and the owner is not there. He suggested there should be different rules in built-up residential areas versus wilderness areas, as an example.

“This issue never crossed my mind until the last two months,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. She has heard a couple of complaints where a home was purchased by someone who lives in Toronto and was rented out to three families. “The complaints raised were related to the disrespect of people to his property,” she said. “We need to look at this issue.”

Councillor Bryan Barker agreed. “The article that was provided was an eye-opener. We’ve heard horror stories and need to get on this before it gets out of hand. My only concern is that we not paint everyone with the same brush. There are responsible homeowners that rent out their places. I certainly think it’s worthwhile to look at and get ahead of the game.”

Manitoulin Island saw increased tourism during the first two years of COVID, said Councillor Michael Hunt. “Some homeowners offered their homes for rent and on the other side, municipalities were able to attract tourists. I agree with what Councillor Alkenbrack mentioned, about no owner/manager on site, fights, fires and people using neighbouring property for docks and parking. There needs to be bylaws set out.”

Councillor Sharon Jackson said while she hasn’t personally heard of any issues, she acknowledges that ghost houses (short-term rentals where there is no owner or manager on site) could be a problem. “It’s going to be tricky to be specific to Billings, but it is something for us to look at,” she said.

“I think we are all in agreement that Arthur draft a bylaw and we look at it at a future meeting,” Mayor Anderson concluded.

Alton Hobbs, CAO/clerk of the municipality of Assiginack told The Expositor “we have a draft bylaw in place for short term rentals,  but we are waiting until the new council is in place to implement it.” He said the municipality has to look at establishing a bylaw stating, “It has to be established, this will be an issue that will be more intense than the trailer bylaw issue.”

Ruth Frawley, CAO/clerk for the municipality of Central Manitoulin told The Expositor, “council passed a bylaw on this May 26. Yes, we’ve had lots of complaints from members of the public on short-term accommodation rentals.  So we looked at other municipalities in Ontario on the best way to establish a bylaw, and sought public input into the bylaw before it was passed.”