Below is a speech written and presented by Ainsley Kendrick at the May 17, 2020 “Rally for STR Regulation” at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown
My name is Ainsley Kendrick and I have been part of the PEI Fight for Affordable Housing since its inception in 2018. We are a grassroots group of community members working to build a tenant movement through education, and empowerment by supporting tenants to uphold their rights. We also do our best to advocate to the government holding them to account for their policy decisions and inaction on the housing crisis.
I was a renter for my whole adult life up until two years ago. Unfortunately, my landlord passed away and his partner decided to put the 4-unit house we lived up for sale. My partner and I knew that if we stayed and waited for a new owner, we would likely be evicted, so we pooled money and bought a house. I have lived in all sorts of housing situations and have had both good and not-so-good experiences. I choose to participate in these collective efforts because I understand my privilege as a homeowner and want to work to change the racist, classist and discriminatory systems that keep people housing insecure. I believe access to safe, secure, affordable housing is a basic right all people deserve to thrive.
I assume you are here tonight because you too want to see change. Well, tonight is your opportunity to speak out! Our voice is a powerful tool and tonight we must use it.
Use your voice to share your story.
Use your voice to hold your council accountable.
Use your voice to speak truth to lies.
Supporters of commercial short-term rentals are going to try to convince Council, planning staff, and the public that STR’s are good for the community. Well, I call bullshit!
Back in early 2019, the STR “Association” presented Council with a “Myths and Facts” document that is all myth and no facts. I would like to take a moment to debunk some of their “facts” and also share some stories.
Short-term rentals are a major economic benefit and are aiding in the preservation of the historic core of the City.
Tourism as a whole may provide economic benefit to Charlottetown but there is no data available to show the economic benefits of STRs. You know why? Because they are unregulated and haven’t been tracked! In fact, of the 635 STR listings in Charlottetown that were active at one point researchers were only able to identify 265 STR listings that were registered.
What we do know is the province spends 12 million a year in public funds on their mobile rental voucher program to support 1300 people in being able to afford their rent. As of November of 2020, there were 750 people on the social housing waitlist.
Back in February, I had the privilege of meeting “L” on Grafton St. She was trying to raise enough money for her and her friends to rent a safe hotel room for shelter that night. She had been evicted because her rent was too high and she couldn’t afford to pay it. There was no room in Blooming House and she had tried living at the Queen’s Arms but the conditions were unsafe and unhealthy.
The STR “Association” may think they benefit the economy but what they are doing is destroying the community and leaving the public to pick up the pieces. They care more for historic homes then the people they’ve displaced to restore them.
STRs are not responsible for the housing shortage in Charlottetown.
This housing crisis is complex and commercial STR operators may not consider themselves directly responsible but they have undeniably contributed to the housing shortage.
Data from Dr. David Wachsmuth’s report on short-term rentals in Charlottetown showed in 2019 there were 193 long-term units were converted into STRs in Charlottetown.
Yes, our vacancy rate has increased from 1.2-2.6% but the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Bevan-Baker is quoted saying this was a direct result of the pandemic and the loss of tourism, forcing commercial STR owners to put their units back on the long-term market in order to afford their investment.
STR’s have contributed to a 38% increase in rental costs which is a third of all rent increases in the city in the last three years—an average of $292 per renter.
We recently heard a story from a tenant whose landlord owns at least eight other units and entire buildings. This person lives in one of the former STR units and is paying $1300/mo for a one bedroom. All of the units in their building are still up on VRBO for booking. They are terrified of getting evicted once travel opens up a bit more. They’re also too scared to speak up out of fear of retribution via eviction.
STR’s are not dominated by a small number of rich corporations.
35.9% of all revenue last year was earned by just 1 in 20 hosts, and the most successful ten percent of hosts earned nearly half (47.3%) of all STR revenue.
The median host revenue in Charlottetown last year was $19,300, while the top-earning host earned almost $440,000.
The numbers speak for themselves.
An anonymous renter wanted us to share this reflection:
“As a young professional trying to create roots in Charlottetown, it was devastating to feel taken advantage of by landlords. They used the loophole of “renovations” to remove me from my apartment and within days, I saw it posted on VRBO available to rent immediately. When I confronted them about it, they returned with questions about the “cleanliness” of the apartment and that they might need to deduct from my damage deposit. I pride myself in being a trusting person, this definitely impacted that!”
Now that you are prepared with some actual TRUTHS about the impact of STRs on housing and the sickening greed of commercial str owners I encourage you to write the Mayor, your Councillor, and the Planning Department to demand proper regulations and enforcement that support the owner-occupied model (scenario 2).
SERVE THE NEEDY, NOT THE GREEDY!