Unintended Consequences

The sharing economy is adding inventory to Alberta’s supply of guest accommodation without building a single new hotel.  Home-sharing platforms appeal to a certain segment of travellers and to homeowners wanting to augment their income.  However, unregulated rentals and the home-sharing platforms that promote them have created unintended consequences, such as:

  • Loss of affordable housing due to the financial incentive to convert homes and condominiums to short term rentals,
  • Impacts to property values:
    • Increasing values as investors seek to purchase property in prime areas that offer attractive returns on investment through commercial home-sharing activity, or
    • Lowering values as a result of noise, nuisance and safety impacts on neighbours,
  • Introduction of commercial accommodation activity in residential apartments, condos, and neighbourhoods,
  • Lost hours of work for those employed in the regulated accommodation industry, and
  • Lost tax revenues for government.

Toronto, Vancouver, and numerous American cities are already feeling the impact of these unintended consequences.

Regulation Needed

The very nature of offering hospitality and accommodation invites a wide variety of guests.  Hoteliers recognize that some guests are unwelcome, and have procedures and policies to identify and address them:

  • Inspection, containment, and eradication of pests such as bedbugs, which can have undesirable and expensive consequences if not correctly treated and exterminated.
  • Monitoring and reporting criminal activity like drug manufacturing and sales, sex trade, and human trafficking.

AHLA Recommendations

The neighborhood impacts of home-sharing should be addressed to ensure Albertans are able to peacefully enjoy their residences, whether they rent their home, or live next door to someone who does.  The AHLA has presented the following recommendations on home-sharing to the Government of Alberta:

  • Review & modernize legislation including the Condominium Property Act, Residential Tenancies Act, Innkeepers Act, and Tourism Levy Act to reflect the new realities of the sharing economy.
  • Permit a maximum of 30 room nights for short-term online rentals and home-sharing.
  • Make home-sharing platforms legally responsible for:
    • Collecting and remitting the Tourism Levy on behalf of hosts, and
    • Sharing information related to host listings and rental activity
    • Require all providers of short term accommodation to comply with cleanliness, health, and safety regulations.

 The AHLA encourages Alberta municipalities to:

  • Restrict home-sharing activity to principal residences.
  • Require all providers of short term accommodation to hold a current business licence and occupancy permit and carry adequate property and liability insurance.
  • Require all providers of short term accommodation to comply with municipal bylaws and zoning.

Airbnb has recently hired a firm to lobby the provincial NDP government to develop policies to support the growth of the sharing economy in Alberta, and specifically policies to support home-sharing, and alignment and opportunities in support of the government’s tourism strategy.