What about Airbnb?

By Bruce Firestone | Architecture

Oct 03

At a recent Ottawa mayoral candidates debate, the issue of what to do (if anything) about Airbnb came up. Current mayor Jim Watson pointed to a 4% tax now levied on Airbnb rentals somewhat leveling the field between professionally-run hotels and sharing economy-based ones.

Mr Watson also said, “When you move into a neighborhood, you expect to move next door to a family or a single (person) or a couple, not a hotel room that changes every couple of days… We have to level the playing field. I have no objection to

someone occasionally renting out a room or a house or an apartment or a condo, but it can’t be done as a full-time business.”

What I recommend re Airbnb?

1.       we have to be careful about turning our backs on the sharing economy or gig economy

2.       many homeowners have to use their properties to bolster their incomes

3.       often young people and seniors rent a room or in-home apartment via Airbnb, so they can pay their mortgage, or it helps boost their retirement income or both

4.       the city may be looking through “the wrong end of the telescope” on this issue–they are only considering one side of the equation, NIMBY (not in my back yard) neighbors not folks who own property as part of their retirement planning, for example

5.       I think if someone lives in a residence, they should be free to use Airbnb or whatever platform (such as VRBO) they need to in order to run a home-based business including greeting guests booked via Airbnb

6.       if they don’t live in the property, I still believe they should be allowed to use Airbnb, especially in designated tourism areas like Little Italy or close to colleges and universities as well as other large employment generators

7.       however, they might pay a higher tax rate—say 50% more or double the 4% now charged…

If cities and towns allow home-based businesses, micro retail, coach houses, in-home apartments, work from home, workshops, maker spaces, co-working hoffices, why not Airbnb too? It’s part of making cities and towns more livable, more exciting, more diverse, more sustainable.

If there is too much noise or other obnoxious behavior like public drunkenness, well, we have bylaws, ordinances and police for that.

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
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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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