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  • Writer's pictureThe Standard

Letter to the Editor

Regarding the City plan to regulate Short term rentals (STRs), I have some thoughts. (re: the City of Kawartha Lakes)

STRs have existed for a hundred years, but something very disruptive has occurred to make them balloon out of control.

Software companies have become the 'hotel front desk,' without having to be attached to a brick-and-mortar building, and they are able to connect renters with rental units and generate revenue via service fees. Those simple service fees have made these software companies very rich and the municipal process, of taxing the brick-and-mortar business, effectively useless.

For instance, AirBnb has its headquarters in San Francisco, but using its 'Hotel front desk' software, it has un-taxed STR rooms, in the City of Kawartha Lakes, and is disrupting communities without consequences.

I believe, the city should attach some consequences to these 'Hotel front desk' software companies, in the form of well thought out Municipal accommodation tax (MAT).

The problem for the city staff is, a MAT does not add more bureaucracy to the community; it just pulls in revenue by using the software companies' own method against them. There would not be a lot for city staff to do, since the entire MAT administration would be done by the software company and applied to the rental transaction online. The revenue generated by this MAT could then be allocated back into the affected communities, in the form of: road services, Bylaw officers, service improvements, etc. MAT revenue also allows the affected communities to come together and embrace their STRs as a benefit to their municipal services, shifting the optics to a modern revenue source, beyond property taxes.

Most other municipalities have let their property tax revenue, focused city staff, dictate the solution for STR and be entirely regulatory. This has completely missed the potential of modern revenue stream and community betterment. The creation of new bylaw regulations seems to further ruin the STR-stressed communities, by requiring the Homeowners to become volunteer bylaw officers and snitch on each other. City staff are very good at making taxpayers the administrators of their poorly thought-out and ineffective regulations, simply because they don't know any better.

I live next to a STR, and the only city-provided option for me is to snitch on my neighbour, ruin our relationship, and make the community I live in less functional.

What really angers me is, how the creators of this community chaos (ie. AirBnb, VRBO, Kijiji) get off scot-free and rake in millions in revenue with no consequence, while city staff wrongheadedly punish property owners with idiotic registries and fines.

I fully expect the City staff to treat this as a regulatory problem and not a potential community-managed revenue stream. The new STR registry bureaucracy will most definitely become a money pit which further punishes taxpayers. Soon, I will be tasked, to allocate a majority of my time, to police my community for STRs and go to war with my neighbours, while the software companies, who created this problem, laugh all the way to the bank.

James Riches

Treasurer, North Taylor Road Cottagers Association, Kirkfield

Facebook page @mitchell.lake.north

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