City of Ottawa committee votes in favor of Airbnb ban

By Bruce Firestone | Business Models

Nov 17

[Note: feature image is international symbol for human rights.]

So, a city committee has voted in favor of effectively banning Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms, https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/dozens-sign-up-to-tell-councillors-what-they-think-about-proposed-crackdown-on-short-term-rentals

This is a terrible decision IMHO.

Three councillors voted against the ban:

Stephen Blais <stephen.blais@ottawa.ca>

Eli El-Chantiry <Eli.El-Chantiry@ottawa.ca>

Matt Luloff 613-580-2471×26699′ <Matt.Luloff@ottawa.ca>

I wrote to them (see below). I encourage you to write to them as well in your own words and pass this on to your friends as well if you want to… get folks writing in to help change this when full city council meets.

From: bruce.firestone@century21.ca <bruce.firestone@century21.ca>
Sent: November 17, 2019 7:04 AM
To: ‘Stephen Blais’ <stephen.blais@ottawa.ca>; ‘Eli El-Chantiry’ <Eli.El-Chantiry@ottawa.ca>; ‘Matt Luloff 613-580-2471×26699’ <Matt.Luloff@ottawa.ca>
Subject: support

Councillors, I wanted to let you know that you have a great deal of support in the community for taking a stand like the three of you did against turning our backs on the modern sharing economy. I personally believe that, in effect, banning home sharing platforms is a mistake.

These platforms provide a completely different experience for visitors, guests, tourists and traveling professionals. They provide a much needed income stream for property owners (and even renters who need to sublet), many of whom are not wealthy. And they have no impact on the availability of supportive/affordable housing.

I coach the Emily Murphy Non-Profit Housing Corporation, which provides supportive housing to single parents (almost all of them single moms)—these are two and three bedroom stacked towns where RGI rents are as low as $95 a month. That is not a misprint—less than $100 a month. There is no way that a property owner with (say) an Airbnb-listed apartment who is forced out of that platform is going to turn around and make her/his place available for $95 a month to needy people.

Anyway, I admire your courage.

Best, Bruce

ps after reading Jon Willing’s October 5th, 2019 article, Ban some from renting homes short term if they don’t live there, consultant recommends, https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ban-some-people-from-short-term-home-rentals-if-they-dont-live-there-consultant-recommends, I wrote the following to the city of Ottawa’s policy people:

Dear city of Ottawa,

My spouse and I own a home in Ottawa that has a small microsuite in it. The house is near the Ottawa Civic Hospital. My wife advertises it for rent on a home sharing platform and her main clients turn out to be women with high risk pregnancies from out of town who need to stay close to the hospital for anywhere from two to six weeks before delivering their babies. They MUCH prefer our microsuite to a hotel. It’s larger, less expensive, ground-oriented and child-friendly.

We do not live at the home, but we do live nearby.

The income from our microsuite averages about $1,300 a month and it is a meaningful and important source of revenue for us. I am a senior with a CPP (Canada Pension Plan) payout of about $620 monthly. My spouse, who is younger, does not yet collect anything from CPP. Neither of us have any other pension plans as we have worked in the private sector where defined benefit pension plans are exceedingly scarce.

It is our view that the Maclaren Report is looking through the “wrong end of the telescope” and does not recognize how home sharing can benefit elders (and young people, especially first-time homebuyers). Who else is going to provide us with an extra $1,300 a month? Not the city of Ottawa, not the Federal government, in fact, no one.

Please do not ban home sharing even if it is a house one doesn’t live in.

Best,

Bruce Firestone

613-762-8884

Ps in addition, please refer to a letter to the editor of Ottawa Business Journal written by me and two other concerned citizens whose families also depend on home sharing for a living, https://brucemfirestone.com/in-defense-of-the-sharing-economy-and-in-particular-home-sharing-platforms/

Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD
Real Estate Investment and Business coach
Century 21 Explorer Realty Inc broker
Ottawa Senators founder
1-613-762-8884
bruce.firestone@century21.ca
twitter.com/ProfBruce
profbruce.tumblr.com/archive
brucemfirestone.com

• MAKING IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE
• FREEDOM VIA REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT AND PB4L, PERSONAL BUSINESS FOR LIFE
• FEHAJ, FOR EVERY HOME A JOB
• MAKE YOUR HOME WORK FOR YOU, INSTEAD OF YOU WORKING FOR IT
• HIGHER ROI NOT JUST FOR OWNERS AND INVESTORS, BUT FOR TENANTS, GUESTS, VISITORS, NEIGHBORHOODS, COMMUNITIES, TOWNS, VILLAGES, CITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT TOO

Image source: By Predrag Stakić, released by http://humanrightslogo.net/ – http://humanrightslogo.net/, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16682816

Postscript by Dave Bush (an exchange with Kanata North councillor Jenna Sudds who ultimately voted to ban Airbnb):

Hi Jenna,

I spoke with you a while back when you came to my door in Morgan’s Grant. You said that I could ask you questions if I thought of any … so here goes … what is your position on Airbnb properties in Ottawa? Do you support the Airbnb platform in Ottawa? Jim Watson stated that he thinks it’s fine for people to rent units on Airbnb “occasionally.” However, I note there are currently almost 3,000 active Airbnb properties in Ottawa.

In fact, here are real-time stats: https://www.airdna.co/market-data/app/ca/ontario/ottawa/overview

Folks are clearly using the platform more than occasionally:

Can you let me know your position on the management of Airbnb hosts in Ottawa?

Thanks!

Dave

Next Dave wrote this:

Good morning Jenna,

We spoke a while back about our concerns about how the City of Ottawa will deal with short term rental regulation.   My opinions are clearly stated in this article. This morning I’ve been reading through the Maclaren Report and I have concerns about it.  One major concern with this report is that is anecdotal at best and is not data driven.  On page 14 the report presents a non-random (Why is a non-random survey bad?) survey of 1100 responses.  None-the-less the “survey” concluded that 485 vs 215 respondents voted in favour of allowing investment property owners to rent their properties as short term rentals.   On page 19 of the report the begin presenting policy options – on page 26 of the report it suspiciously LEAVES OUT investment properties in residential zones!  Why would the report not include this as an option after its own “survey” showed this could be a viable option?  It as though the report jumped from “fact” gathering to trying to manipulate policy decisions.  

What about the Housing Crisis?

The report references a study conducted by the City of Ottawa and its stated that:

“If all 1,236 short-term rentals of this nature were moved to long-term rental housing, the amount is only a fraction of the projected shortfall of 18,000 to 19,000 units required. In annual terms, if all 1,236 units were converted to long-term rental housing, it would amount to a one-time gain of one years’ worth of the shortfall out of the 17 years of increased growth in supply required to close the gap. If it happened instantly, the long-term rental vacancy would almost double, so there clearly would be a useful impact in the short term, but additional steps need to be taken to deal with the potential rental unit shortfall in the longer term.”

IMO short term rentals are an easy scapegoat for the affordable housing crisis and that issue could easily be fixed removing Rent Control!  Everybody know this to be true and Angela and I know this to be true.  We have used the extra revenue from short term rentals to improve our buildings and have put multiple units back in the longer-term rental pool.

Going Forward

Angela and I have currently employed a hybrid rental model in our apartments.  We have moved to a longer-term rental model servicing the 4-8 month rental market for students and workers but would still like to use short-term rentals to fill vacancy gaps.  We would simply like the option to use short term rentals for perhaps only one quarter of the year.  Is a flat out ban for investment properties the most innovative solution the City of Ottawa can consider?   Unfortunately Angela and I will never receive the coveted “Defined Benefit Pension Plan” that pays instalments indexed to inflation in perpetuity – We need to innovate and work hard for our retirement years.  The all-out ban for investors that is being consider will certainly affect our plans to retire at a reasonable age – will be on the “Freedom 95” track.

Our Ask To You

Please help to represent our side of this important issue at City Hall and work for a more middle of the road approach.  We are happy to work with you in any way possible.  Please contact us to discuss this important issue further.

Cheers,

Dave and Angela

613-277-4767

And finally this:

Thanks Jenna,

Angela and I run and use the Airbnb system as hosts so that’s why we’re interested. We personally believe is net positive for the City of Ottawa.  We feel there is some pressure from the hotel industry to snuff out home sharing, so we want to be represented by a progressive leader who in-tune with new economies brought upon by the internet era.  I have been working with a Maeve Gallagher from Airbnb – She has been working with the City of Ottawa as a representative and was involved with the introduction of a 4% “Hotel Tax” that Airbnb submits to the OGHA.

I personally don’t believe Toronto has taken the best approach in the regulation of Airbnb. The hotel lobby has made the argument that Airbnb is solely responsible draining the housing stock.  Toronto’s rental market is very tight but if you know Toronto, you’ll know they’ve gone crazy building condos for years.  Many people who buy those condos actually live in them which accounts for part of the reason that some folks can’t find places to rent – all that said Toronto is a very different city than Ottawa – I really don’t think need to look to Toronto for ideas in this matter.

I’ve co-authored this article with Bruce Firestone:

It amazes me that the knee-jerk reaction is that Airbnb with have a negative impact on the City.  Airbnb has and will continue to have a positive impact on the City of Ottawa if we approach it carefully.  We want to work with the City and continue to be part of the growing number of responsible Airbnb hosts.  We would be happy share our experiences and knowledge with you’re looking for input on the subject.

Cheers,

Dave and Angela

613-277-4767

POSTSCRIPT BY TYLER LEBLANC:

Hi Councillors,

I would like to take the time to honor you for the decision to support free enterprise for Ottawa homeowners and landlords by voting against the Airbnb and short-term rental Ban.

The Airbnb service was the only thing that kept our clients from losing a project to bankruptcy, which was built brand new for sale and on the market for a long period of time.

We used a number of shorterm rental sites to market the property but none came close to the service from Airbnb so we decided to only use Airbnb.

Airbnb seems to be the only company willing to work with the city on a solution and they are paying for it out of their own pocket. That’s say A LOT about the integrity and social responsibility of the company. They also have the most robust insurance policy in the industry that protects and covers all parties involved.

I disagree with the ban and believe Airbnb provides homeowners and landlords the ability to offer tourists shortterm housing solutions and provide extra income in times of need for landlords willing to put in the extra work to house short-term renters.

I hope the other councillors in our community don’t punish entrepreneurs and free enterprises. With housing prices souring, it’s difficult for landlords and homeowners to cover costs of rising interest rates and Airbnb can deliver these folks a breath of fresh air in difficult times.

I hope you are able to convince others that this is great for the local economy, tourism, and local entrepreneurs/business owners.

A handful of incidents can happen anywhere in the city even at someone’s home. Bad neighbors are everywhere and, in the case of Airbnb, bad hosts are reviewed and exclude in a feedback system that works. Give the platform more time and you’ll see–terrible hosts (and guests) will be weeded out.

A huge percentage of Airbnb guests are very respectful–don’t punish hosts, guests and the Ottawa scene (and economy) because of a few bad actors… who’ll be gone anyway, banned by the system.

Just my two cents.

Best regards,

Tyler LeBlanc 613-266-4806 Ottawa entrepreneur/landlord

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.

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