The growing popularity of short-term rental services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, has created new opportunities and challenges for Ottawa and its residents. The City is currently considering the best way to manage this emerging industry. This component of the study will also consider possible changes to hotel/motel regulations.

Current status

Maclaren Municipal Consulting is conducting an independent review of regulations concerning short-term accommodations, including online short-term rental services such as Airbnb and Expedia and how they relate to hotels and motels and traditional bed and breakfasts.

Residents are currently invited to review a Short-Term Rental Policy Options Paper and complete an online survey by September 4, 2019.

Further information about the short-term rental study is below.

Background

The emergence of short-term accommodation rentals in private dwellings through on-line platforms such as Airbnb and Expedia has changed the landscape of the hospitality industry. In doing so, this new industry has created both opportunities and challenges for residents of Ottawa.

For some residents, the financial opportunities created through online short-term rentals have increased their housing security and enhanced their quality of life.

Some communities have also benefited through increased tourism outside of the traditional tourist districts in the City.

The zoning by-law currently prohibits short-term rentals of complete units in all residential zones. However, there has been rapid growth of short-term rentals, which has brought some new problems:

  • neighbourhood disruption from “party houses”
  • units devoted full time to short-term rentals removes housing supply and contributes to higher long-term rents
  • short-term rentals causing issues for landlords and condominium boards who do not want them in their buildings
  • safety concerns related to overcrowding

Through the Rental Accommodations Study, the City will develop recommendations for the best strategy to manage these issues. Key considerations include:

  • What are the economic benefits of short-term rentals?
  • How are short-term rentals impacting the private rental housing market?
  • What factors contribute to successful short-term rental situations and what factors lead to problematic rentals?
  • What are the impacts of short-term rental properties on City services and finances?

Once each of these factors has been considered, staff will provide recommendations to Council. These will include:

  • Should short-term rentals be regulated?
    • If “Yes”, what should the rules be?
    • If “No”, how can the benefits be retained while mitigating the negative impacts?

As the City works to consider regulations for Short-Term Rental services, it is also appropriate to review regulations for hotels, motels and traditional bed and breakfasts.

The City does not currently license hotels, motels or traditional bed and breakfasts. Food premises within hotels are licensed and inspected, and other by-laws such as property standards and property maintenance are also enforced. Should regulation of short-term rentals include regulation of hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts? If so, to address what issues? If not, how can we meaningfully distinguish them from the “Airbnb”-type short term rentals?

The Rental Accommodations Study will consider if existing rules effectively address public health and safety, consumer protection and community nuisance. If gaps are identified, the study will provide recommendations to enhance protection for communities, residents and visitors.

Studies and reports

Review background studies used to inform public policy development related to key rental housing issues.

The issues facing rental housing are complex and often interrelated.

This is why the City has taken a holistic approach to its examination of rental accommodation regulations, supported by extensive research on Ottawa’s rental market.

On this page you will find key reports either commissioned or conducted by the City in support of this study.

If residents or organizations have additional reports that they would like to be considered, please contact bylawreviews@ottawa.ca. English and French language submissions are welcome.

Literature Review and Multi-jurisdictional Environmental Scan (Prism Economics and Analysis)

This report provides an overview of leading academic and policy papers on rental housing issues from around the globe, with specific analysis of real-world application in multiple Canadian and American jurisdictions. This report has helped to identify promising approaches to regulation that will be considered as possible strategies to address local issues.

Rental Market Analysis (Prism Economics and Analysis)

This study provides comprehensive data about the local private rental market, including the size and condition of housing inventory, rental rates and changes, vacancy rates and housing demand. This data has been analyzed at the census tract level to provide a detailed understanding of rental conditions on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

The study also provides important data about short-term rental activity in Ottawa and how it is influencing the availability and affordability of private market rental housing.

This report is being used to evaluate policy approaches identified in the Environmental Scan to help shape policies that best serve the needs of our community. The report is further being utilized to develop cost and resource estimates for proposed regulatory changes.

Beyond policy development, the data and analysis provided through this study is also helping to inform the work of other City initiatives, particularly in Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development and Community and Social Services.

Note: Selected data from the Rental Market Analysis is now available on Open Data.

Rental Housing Conditions – Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)

This paper outlines current issues related to student housing – the need for housing, the housing available, and the conflicts between some students and their neighbours. Please review this document before attending the related workshops or completing the questionnaire.

Student Housing – Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)

This paper outlines current issues related to student housing – the need for housing, the housing available, and the conflicts between some students and their neighbours. Please review this document before attending the related workshops or completing the questionnaire

Short-Term Rentals – Discussion Paper (PDF) (Maclaren Municipal Consulting)

This paper outlines the growth of short-term rentals within residential properties, the issues that have emerged with the hotel industry, with neighbours, and opportunities that have developed for travelers and for housing owners.

Please review this document before attending the related workshops or completing the questionnaire

Property Standards in Rental Units  (City of Ottawa) – Planned for August 2019

This report will provide a ten-year history of service requests associated with private market rental units. This data will provide greater understanding of the scope and nature of issues facing tenants and landlords.

This report will help identify gaps in regulation and prioritize issues for policy development. It will also be used by By-law and Regulatory Services to assess service delivery, enforcement protocols and resource allocation.

Residents should expect this report by the end of August 2019.

Rental Housing Regulation Review – Final Report (Maclaren Municipal Consulting) – Planned for Sept 2019

The Final Report will be based on the Policy Options report and the input and feedback received over the summer.

Public consultations

Over the past year, the City has been meeting with local advocacy organizations, service providers and industry associations. This work will continue for the duration of the study.

If you represent an organization that would like to contribute to the study, please contact by-lawreviews@ottawa.ca

There will also be three public consultation periods for this study.

Consultation 1

The first round of consultations concluded on June 30, 2019. This initial consultation sought to identify community concerns related to rental housing conditions, short-term rentals, and student housing and shared accommodations. Twelve public workshops were held, as well as a series of meetings with stakeholder groups. Residents were also invited to complete an online survey and comment form.

Consultation 2

The second consultation period is now open and will close on September 4, 2019.

For this consultation, residents can consider policy options to address the community concerns identified in Consultation 1. Two policy options papers are available, for Rental Housing Conditions and Short-Term Rentals. Residents can comment through two online surveys:

Rental Housing Conditions

Short-Term Rentals

Written submissions to Maclaren Municipal Consulting can also be made by email to rentalhousingreview@gmail.com

Consultation 3

Residents will also have the opportunity to express their opinion on the specific recommendations of the study prior to Council’s consideration of the final report.

These consultation dates will be announced in September 2019.

About the Rental Accommodations Study

The Rental Accommodations Study was approved by City Council as a component of the 2018 budget. The need for this study arose from several emerging trends, including:

  • concerns expressed by residents and community organizations about the quality and safety of private sector rental housing and how the City addresses these issues
  • growth of requests for service regarding property standards, which have increased 34% over the last 3 years and nearly tripled since the new City of Ottawa formed in 2001 (from 5,045 to 13,543)
  • continued growth of post-secondary institutions and the ability of the City to meet unique housing needs of students
  • the conversion of single unit residential properties into unlicensed rooming houses and other forms of shared accommodations
  • the emergence of short-term accommodation rentals (using on-line platforms such as Airbnb or Expedia) and possible impacts for private market housing availability and affordability, as well as health and safety, community nuisance, property standards and maintenance, and consumer protection considerations
  • the need to review regulations currently in place for hotels, motels and traditional bed and breakfasts

Beginning in late 2018, City staff have been conducting research and working with external consultants to produce required background studies and reports.

A working group was established with key staff from six City departments. This working group helps to ensure that the study is well coordinated with other City initiatives related to rental housing and service delivery.

In early 2019, the City engaged Maclaren Municipal Consulting to conduct an independent assessment of Ottawa’s regulations related to private sector rental housing. This review will help identify potential problems and recommend possible solutions.

Current Status

The first public phase of the Rental Accommodations study has just begun.

Maclaren Municipal Consulting is currently conducting public consultations for their independent review of local regulations.

At the same time, City staff are continuing to meet with community organizations and industry stakeholders to identify concerns and discuss possible strategies to resolve them.

Community organizations can contact project staff by e-mail: bylawreviews@ottawa.ca.

Next Steps

Initial public consultations will conclude in June.

Over the summer, Maclaren will conduct further consultations needed to finish their independent Local Regulatory Review and provide a report to City Staff in late August/early September.

City staff will then consolidate all studies and reports to provide recommendations to Council about each of the identified issues. This will provide a third opportunity for residents to participate and provide opinions on the specific recommendations proposed by staff.

The final staff report is expected to be presented to Council by the end of the year.

Outcome

The aim of this study is to create a regulatory framework that best serves the needs of residents and the local economy.

In all cases, proposed regulations must be enforceable, effective and sustainable:

Enforceable: The City must be able prove a violation exists within the existing powers of enforcement staff.

Effective: Rules must serve a purpose and help manage or resolve specific issues.

Sustainable: The cost of administration and enforcement must be recoverable through fees and may not place undue burden on residents or the economy.

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