News / Calgary

Calgary city councillor wants more oversight over Airbnb rentals

Ward Sutherland is asking city administration to look into health, safety and zoning issues around short-term rentals

Calgary Airbnb rooms are currently unregulated, but a move by Calgary City Council could lead to changes.

JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

Calgary Airbnb rooms are currently unregulated, but a move by Calgary City Council could lead to changes.

Airbnb hosts here in Calgary have it pretty easy when it comes to regulations compared with other major Canadian cities.

But city oversight could be on the way for those with rooms to let, if Ward 1 Coun.Ward Sutherland has his way.

He's putting forward a notice of motion on Monday asking city administration to explore business licence, land use and fire and safety code requirements to ensure short term rentals have the appropriate level of safety and oversight.

Sutherland's motion points out that short-term rentals, including lodging houses and bed and breakfasts, don't have to charge the four per cent provincial tourism levy.

Although the motion mentions bed and breakfasts, many who operate B&Bs in Calgary are welcoming the move.

David English, owner of English Bed, Breakfast and Day Spa, has seen his business drop with the rise of Airbnb.

He's been running his business since 1999, and did have to jump through some hoops with the city in order to get his business licence.

English said traditional Bed and Breakfasts have to get a development permit, a business licence, and meet parking requirements.

He has provincial health inspectors checking in, and as a member of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Calgary, he also has that organization's inspections periodically.

"We definitely feel it's time for the city to level the playing field," said English.

The hotel industry is also hoping to see a tighter lid on Airbnb. Dan DeSantis, Chairman of the Calgary Hotel Association, said all commercial accomodations should be subject to the same regulations and taxations as hotels.

"This is what it means to be a Canadian business," he said. "Competition is a good thing - but it needs to be on a level playing field."

David Kelly, an Airbnb host in southeast Calgary, said he has been expecting the city to get involved for some time, and he's OK with that, as long as he has enough notice to adjust his prices if needed.

He's not concerned about inspectors when it comes to health and safety

"They're welcome to check for fire – that just makes sense," he said.

Kelly noted hes already paying federal tax on his income as a host, plus GST on stays over a certain amount. Beyond that he feels his operation has benefits without any drawbacks.

"I bring a ton of value for the City of Calgary in terms of positive experiences for these people who are staying at a price they can afford," he said.

Airbnb Canada has already gone through regulation processes in other Canadian cities

In a written statement, Alex Dagg, of Airbnb Canada said the company is committed to collaboratively working with the city to develop smart, easy-to-follow rules that support home sharing.

"For thousands of hosts across Canada, Airbnb is making it possible for regular people to make ends meet," said Dagg. "With the majority of Airbnb listings outside traditional tourist zones, neighbourhood businesses in the city also benefit from visitor spending."

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