News / Calgary

Airbnb next hot button city hall issue: Pootmans

With complaints about unruly short-term neighbours bubbling and no regulatory framework for Calgary something’s got to give

Although the app has been around for some time, some members of council are looking to get ahead of any problems that may arise from the free-market rental service.

Metro File Photo

Although the app has been around for some time, some members of council are looking to get ahead of any problems that may arise from the free-market rental service.

Amid the cluster of secondary suite debates, and far from another Uber storm, is a new contender for a council time suck: Airbnb.

On Monday, as homeowners got extra personal about their suite requests and concerns, some of the debate turned to bad neighbours, but specifically those hosting Airbnb renters. According to one councillor, and the city’s Mayor, this not-so-new rental model is on the city’s radar, and rules around it could be one of the most contentious debates yet.

“This issue is going to be problematic for our city,” said Coun. Richard Pootmans. “Finding the balance between a level of regulation and ensuring a peaceful quiet community for residents, how we find that balance and a property rights issue as well.”

Since the app’s launch, councillors haven’t given the city any direction on the matter but Pootmans said the city is now looking into what the appropriate municipal response might be. He said there’s no “particular wisdom” one way or the other.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters it’s not a “burning issue” in Calgary yet, but that the city is keeping an eye on any policy possibilities. He noted licensing or permitting mechanisms are his preferences – because ensuring safety is primary – an area where other governments have struggled.

One thing firmly on the table, at least for Pootmans, is public consultation and having the city look at whether current bylaws and land uses cover off community concerns.

In other jurisdictions, like San Francisco, there are strict regulations in place where landlords must be sanctioned by the city and cannot exceed a set number of rental days – those who operate outside of the rules are handed hefty fines.

Calgary’s Airbnb market made the headlines in 2015 after a couple’s home was trashed leaving the owners with a $100,000 tab. This was a freak incident, according to the short-term rental company, but councillors are hearing complaints about the practice from their constituents.

“The big deal is it’s not a family living next door, or a couple, it’s a group of people coming in from all over the world for a week or two and sometimes there just there to have 24 hour parties – it’s distruptive,” Pootmans said.

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