There is lots of finger-pointing when it comes to housing prices.
Some point to short-term rental operators.
John Foreman is the president of the NOTL Bed and Breakfast Association and owner of Apple Tree Historic Bed & Breakfast. He says there are around 250 licensed short term rental units and around 100 unlicensed units.
The idea of vacation homes and people renting those vacation homes out goes back a very long time, he said.
“Short term rentals, cottages and B&Bs have been an anchor in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a long, long time — probably 150 years or more,” Foreman noted.
Foreman said most operators work to be good neighbours but said there were certain locations that caused issues.
He doesn’t think STR are to blame for the high housing costs. He noted several B&Bs have been purchased to be turned into private residences.
“I think the reality is Niagara-on-the-Lake is a wonderful place to live, and a lot of people want to live here. There's a limited housing supply. And so naturally, the price is going to rise.”
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Lord Mayor Betty Disero said there are concerns houses were turning into rentals.
“We don’t want to have all of Old Town be taken up by vacation cottages,” Disero said. “If there are too many cottage rentals coming in, that would change the dynamic and the atmosphere of the Old Town.”
“We're trying to manage them to allow for a continued quality of life for our residents and a good experience for tourists. So it's a little bit of a juggling act, but we're getting there,” Disero said.
Corey Fowler owns The Lily Pad, a cottage-style rental.
He said the property has been in his family for four generations.
He bought it in the summer of 2017. It was originally built in 1930 but his family has owned it since 1950.
He knew he couldn’t afford to live there due to the property taxes and housing prices in Niagara.
“I didn’t want to see the house leave the family.”
Fowler said when COVID-19 forced the doors to be closed it had a big impact financially.
“We still had to keep the hydro on and pay the property taxes. Those months were definitely brutal.”
He saw things pick up once the restaurants and wineries of Niagara were allowed to open again.
Foreman said the past two years have been historic down years. He said in 2020 the numbers were around 20 per cent of 2019 levels. 2021 was better at around 50 per cent but was still a down year.
To help enforce the STR bylaw, the town partnered with Granicus govService Host Compliance.
The program is a pilot that will streamline the implementation of the town bylaw and is expected to make enforcement simpler, fairer and more effective for the community.
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The funding for this program is expected to come from the STR licensing fee. The program provides residents a 24/7 hotline number and online system where complaints can be submitted if an STR is in contravention of the town bylaw.
Complaints can include problematic activities and conditions such as excessive noise, illegal parking or overflowing trash.
“If you look at most of the short-term rental properties that are typically older small homes, they're not palaces,” Foreman said. “Because the reality of the economics is you can only charge so much for a room no matter how nice it is, and you just could never make any amount of money if you had to spend $2 million on a house.”
“I think the biggest factor driving prices is the quality of life in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
For more information on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s STR program, visit the town’s STR website.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Short-term rentals have a long history in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Reporter Nick Fearns spoke with those in the industry to get a better sense of how they’ve been impacted and the industry’s connection to the overall housing market.
Source : https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/local-niagara-on-the-lake/news/2021/10/22/out-of-reach-short-term-rentals-have-a-long-history-in-niagara-on-the-lake-notl-b-b-pres-says.html836