Below is a speech written and presented by Rosalind Waters at the May 17, 2020 “Rally for STR Regulation” at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown
Scenario #4 is not balanced.
It is the choice to develop our City on behalf of one narrow interest – that of commercial short-term rental operators. Under scenario #4 (Permitting short term rentals in any principal residence including apartments, and allowing commercial STR in zones that permit a hotel or hostel) tenants and families living on low and moderate incomes will continue to be pushed out of the downtown and forced to leave the community in which, many of them, have lived all of their life. Over time the downtown will become a hollowed-out, sanitized hotel district that lacks the warm buzz of a diverse neighbourhood in which people of all incomes live together.
Cities across the world have faced the same loss of affordable housing due to the aggressive proliferation of short-term rentals. Here’s a list of cities that have introduced “owner-occupied” regulation – i.e. scenario 2 – in response: Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, New York, and of course Vancouver and Toronto. But for some reason, Charlottetown City Council has learned nothing from the experiences of these major cities. To believe that Charlottetown is any different is a grave mistake.
Let’s take Barcelona – a by-the-water tourist destination like Charlottetown. In 2015, over-tourism was a number one problem for the City (this included being the most polluted port in Europe – due to cruise ships). The lack of affordable housing was the second biggest problem – exacerbated by the growth in tourism and specifically the flood of Airbnbs.
So, what happened? People organized and protested! A new City Mayor was elected on a platform of, not only regulating short-term rentals on an “owner occupy basis”, but also working to reduce tourism so that Barcelona could once again become a livable City.
So, communities can fight back!
Charlottetown City Council should learn from this and potential commercial short-term rental investors should beware.
We know that if commercial STRs are allowed in downtown Charlottetown the evictions will begin as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed. These may take the form of renovictions, evictions for change of use of the property, or making life so miserable for the tenant that they have no choice but to move out. Tenants now make up close to 50% of the population of Charlottetown. They are mad and they are organizing
We must mount a strong campaign for scenario #2 (Permitting short-term rentals in any principal residence including apartments, with no allowance for commercial short term rentals). I believe we have the support in the community and the energy to do that.
And in doing this we need to think about the impact of the short-term rental industry on hotel workers and their livelihoods. The short-term rental industry, for the most part, creates only precarious part-time work. The hotel industry, for all its flaws, does create full-time jobs. This is yet another reason to resist the STR industry and stand in solidarity with Charlottetown’s hotel workers, many of whom are tenants.
Make your voice heard!
The City is accepting feedback on the proposed regulatory options up until Friday, May 21, 2021. We have created a template letter to help guide you and also have compiled all councillor emails. We also encourage you to sign our petition to show your support.