City Hall tackles regulations for Airbnb rentals in Saskatoon
SASKATOON -- It’s been difficult to watch a new business model taking over a portion of the hotel business, Jaret Waddell told the City of Saskatoon’s planning and development committee on Tuesday.
"What's hard to stomach when you are a hotel owner/operator is when you begin to lose traditional business and in growing magnitude, it's not an insignificant volume number any longer, to people who play by different rules," said Waddell, president and CEO of Globelx Management Corp., a company that manages hotels in Saskatoon.
"If the short term accommodation industry is going to move into the backyard of another industry, whose obligations from a regulatory standpoint are significantly greater, yet they are not held to the same standard and they become insignificantly different in their business model that's where we have a problem."
The committee on Tuesday reviewed an administration report detailing three options for how city hall could regulate homestay rentals and short-term rentals.
- Homestays obtain a commercial business license and permitting homestays in all zoning districts and prohibiting short-term rental properties in all zoning areas.
- Homestays be allowed in all zoning districts that allow dwellings, and they must obtain a commercial business license. Short term rentals will also be permitted in all zoning districts subject to discretionary use approval from the city and they would be required to obtain a commercial license as well.
- Homestays be permitted in all zoning districts that allow dwellings and homestay hosts hosting one or two guests would not require a business license; those hosting more would require a business license. Short term rentals will be allowed in all residential zoning districts subject to discretionary use approval and they would also require a business license.
Short-term rentals refer to rentals where the homeowner is not present and the rental is for less than 30 days.
Homestay rentals are rentals where the homeowner is present and renting out another space in the same dwelling.
Alisa Thompson, who owns hundreds of rentals in Saskatoon and six Airbnbs, told the committee there is an additional cost to turning a long-term rental into a short-term Airbnb rental and that's a reason she only has so few Airbnbs.
She said the vetting process is far greater for Airbnb rentals than for long-term, standard rentals.
"The questions I can ask for a long term rental are so minimal it's disturbing, and once someone is in that property, as long as their rent is paid, the amount of work it takes to remove somebody, even if they are doing an illegal operation, takes months," Thompson said. "In a short term rental I can remove them within a day."
Thompson said if the city mandated Airbnbs to buy a business license from the city, she said the city will be able to get firm numbers on how many Airbnbs are in Saskatoon.
"I don't have a problem with the business licensing I feel they could get honest stats if they actually implemented business licenses," she said.
Saskatoon resident Veronica Kilpatrick said she thinks consumers should have a choice between a hotel and renting a home over the short term.
"I understand the hotel's perspective and I also understand the consumer perspective. For example a hotel was $220 for two people, for an Airbnb it was $70.
"I believe consumer should be given the choice between the two."
Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill, who chairs the committee, said they heard loud and clear the appetite for Airbnb and now council will determine how to regulate these businesses without having them hurt the current operations in the city.
Hill also operates an Airbnb out of his home in Saskatoon. He told reporters following the meeting he sought legal advice and was told he did not need to declare a conflict of interest because the committee wasn't providing any direction for the administration.
"We didn't have the authority to make any decisions on this. It has to go to Municipal Planning Commission and then from there to a public hearing. What we could do though is get clarity on the items and then ask for additional information, but nothing that would steer or guide the report," Hill said.