Ontario’s waterfront towns are accepting short-term rentals to preserve their way of life

There is a growing movement among Ontario’s riverside communities to push back against short-term rental services, like Airbnb and VRBO, which some say are disrupting the social fabric of their intertwined rural communities to the point where it could upend their way of life. .

The Municipality of Lambton Shores is the latest to consider tougher regulations for the seaside communities of Port Franks, Ipperwash and Grand Bend, when council on Tuesday considered a draft bylaw to allow short-term rentals, cap occupancy at 10 people per dwelling and create a 24/7 hotline allowing residents to report harmful parties.

Port Stanley, a beach town on the shores of Lake Erie that is part of the Municipality of Central Elgin, is also considering a settlement and recently voted 4-3 to study the matter to hopefully put in place a settlement plan. licenses next year.

“For me, we had to regulate it,” Mayor Sally Martyn said, noting that most homes sold in town are often snapped up by outside investors looking to turn them into short-term rentals. “It’s a real problem in Port Stanley.”

Preventive medecine

Others, like the Town of Goderich, are weighing their options. “Canada’s Prettiest Town” only has about 30 short-term rentals, but as they grow in number, it’s becoming clear to some that they can influence more than real estate prices.

Although there may be a year-round industry, such as the town’s salt mine as pictured here, with a slogan like “the prettiest town in Canada”, Goderich attracts a lot of tourists. The council is therefore considering regulating short-term rentals before they become a problem. (Colin Butler/CBC)

“We have to be careful not to erode that rural fabric and the rural neighborhoods that we’ve had for centuries,” said Goderich Mayor John Grace.

With factories, a courthouse and the largest salt mine in the world, Goderich is much more than just a tourist town.

Goderich’s 7,600 residents live there year-round, and they fear that if enough homes in the community are bought out by absentee landlords who run short-term rentals, it would alter the age-old tradition of neighbors helping neighbors that maintains the close-knit community.

We need to make sure he doesn’t invade our neighborhoods.– John Grace, Mayor of Goderich

“We have to get it under control, we have to manage it and we have to make sure it doesn’t invade our neighborhoods.”

The municipality of South Bruce Peninsula, a collection of beach towns about an hour and a half northeast of the Georgian Bay coast, learned this lesson the hard way.

“Every country town faces this”

The community – which includes the lakeside towns of Red Bay, Mallory Beach and Sauble – cracked down on short-term rentals in January 2021, creating a licensing system, a 24-hour hotline to report party houses and a “three strikes and you’re out” to keep absentee owners in tune with neighbors’ expectations.

A little girl plays on a beach in Sauble Beach, Ontario, where city officials estimate that up to 15% of private housing is short-term rentals. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

If they don’t, they risk losing their license and could face fines of up to $500 a day, according to Mayor Janice Jackson, who said the cottage tradition in the community has taken a new intensity with the financialization of housing in Ontario.

“We mean business. Party people and people who don’t care about our community are not welcome here.

“We’re getting more and more complaints from the community where their neighbor sold his house and now it’s the party house next door, and it’s just heartbreaking to hear some of the stories.

“We get people buying houses without seeing them.”

Jackson said his estimated short-term rentals now represent up to 15% of all private housing in his community, which has had a severe impact on the community, turning otherwise residential neighborhoods into tourist areas.

“Every country town faces this and COVID has really exacerbated this problem so we had to do something.

“If this continues, we’re going to get to a point, maybe five years from now, where we have as many rental properties as our permanent residents,” Jackson said.

“It’s going to erode the fabric of the community, there’s no doubt about that.”

Jackson said the pandemic and the rise of staycation has brought so many outside visitors and investors to town that something has to be done to balance things out.

“We want people to come here and enjoy South Bruce Peninsula because it’s absolutely beautiful here, but you have to respect your neighbours. We have too many people coming who just have no respect for our neighbors.