New land-use bylaw regulations will come into effect this Friday, setting limitations on how and where short-term rental units can operate within Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
“There really is no way to be compliant with it, which is frustrating,” short-term rental owner Mike Petrosoniak said.
He and his wife operate one short-term rental home in a residential zone — something that will no longer be permitted as of Sept. 1.
“Right now it seems more of a blanket ban than anything, on the industry,” Petrosoniak said. “Proposed 1,300 short-term rental units to be shut down out of 2,000 in the city, and that’s 65 per cent of that industry as a whole there.”
Under the new regulations, short-term rental owners will be required to register all units with HRM.
Rental units within residential zones will only be allowed to operate in the host’s primary residence — although, for neighbourhoods where hotels or other types of tourist accommodations already exist, commercial short-term rentals will be permitted.
When it comes to short-term rentals in rural areas, the city is considering modifications to these rules.
“Regional Council has directed staff to explore approaches to tourist accommodations in rural parts of the municipality that are outside of the urban service area boundary,” municipal spokesperson Klara Needler said by email.
Petrosoniak said the new regulations have “nothing to do with how well-run your operation is, if you’re in the wrong area, ‘boom,’ it’s done.”
He says all the changes are doing is forcing the remaining short-term rental owners to be in Halifax’s downtown commercial district.
“If we do get rid of all of these short-term rentals, now we’re essentially sending all of this tourist business to these downtown hotels,” he said. “Large operations and also ones that are often not owned in Nova Scotia.”
On top of that, he says the changes will impact an entire microeconomy — as he employs the kid down the street to cut their lawn, a gardener and a self-employed cleaner.
“We’re losing the mom-and-pop-type operations and we’re actually giving that sort of part of the tourist industry to the bigger players.”
Last week, HRM Coun. Shawn Cleary attempted to circulate a motion to delay the city’s short-term rental regulations until May 2024, but that was ruled out of order.
“We’re flying blind,” Cleary told Global News. “We have no idea what the impact is going to be, except we know that for hundreds of people, it’s probably going to be a financial hit in a time when the real estate market is still crazy, interest rates are high, inflation is up. And my fear is that we don’t know what the full impact is going to be.”
In February, members of the public packed council chambers to voice their opinions — in some of the highest levels of participation the planning and development department has seen.
“We were really hoping for more opportunity to discuss, talk about what these regulations mean for the city, talk about that $50 million that we’re going to be losing as a city and as a province,” Cleary said. “I think some more thought needs to be going into these regulations. They were rushed and they are a very hard line.”
Petrosoniak was one of 22 voices speaking out against the regulations, hoping for further discussions.
“Let’s tax us,” Petrosoniak suggested. “Let’s use a two per cent levy, which is the equivalent of the two per cent hospitality tax for hotels here in the city, and use that money to put that towards long-term housing solutions. We want to be part of the solution.”
HRM spokesperson Needler said the city aims to work co-operatively with rental owners, but has “a suite of tools” available — from fines to court action — to enforce requirements if necessary.
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