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Neighbours Speak Up warns council of short-term rental risks

Airbnb “ghost hotels” a serious concern

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Bill Stewart from Neighbours Speak Up addresses Halifax west and community council. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • Caora McKenna
  • Bill Stewart from Neighbours Speak Up addresses Halifax west and community council.

Short-term rentals have been lurking in the background of Halifax's housing market for a few years, and a group of north end neighbours are organizing to reign in some of the negative affects they are seeing.

Neighbours Speak Up, a working group of about 50 people, presented their platform to Halifax and West Community Council this week.

Bill Stewart, spokesperson for the group, says its main concern is what he's calling "ghost hotels." Properties being bought, renovated or built for the sole purpose of year-round, less than thirty day rentals, with no primary resident present.

Stewart says there are currently 1,861 active short-term rentals properties in Halifax. Of these, 71 percent are categorized as "entire home" rentals, meaning the host or owner doesn't live in the unit when guests are there.

There are concerns that increased ghost hotels are taking away units from longer-term Halifax renters—Halifax is currently experiencing its lowest vacancy rate in over 20 years, at 1.6 percent. Stewart says he's heard from community members that they've have 200 people apply for longer-term rentals.

Stewart says it's also a business issue. "The more we saw what was going on, the more we saw the money that was behind all of this, how much was being charged, the fact that these folks do not pay any commercial taxes, they're not licensed, there's no standards." Provincial changes won't take effect until 2020, and Stewart is skeptical of the province's notion that short-term rentals will help rural communities.

City staff are currently looking into the issue of short term rentals—namely Airbnb—and HWCC says they will ensure that Neighbours Speak Up's presentation will be passed along to them.

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