In response to the proliferation of short-term rentals in Ottawa and concerns about the quality of rental housing, low vacancy rates and a growing need for more affordable rental housing, Council today approved a regulatory framework for rental accommodations.
In cases where property owners or tenants continue to not comply with property standards, the City will increase the re-inspection fee to $500. Revenue will be used to fund two new by-law officers who will focus on repeat offenders and high-risk properties. The regulatory regime for long-term rental housing also includes new by-laws to improve landlord-tenant communication and pest and vermin management.
The City will develop and pilot new regulations to permit short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods for three years, enabling property owners or occupants to rent out their principal residences, as well as rural cottages, secondary suites, coach houses and vacation homes on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway and FlipKey. Short-term rentals of commercial and investment properties in residential areas will still be prohibited.
Short-term rental platforms and property managers will need to register with the City and provide information on listings. Short-term rental hosts will need to get a permit that would be valid for two years, and follow rules related to consumer protection, health and safety, and community nuisances. The City will use revenues from the new registration and permit fees, and from the municipal accommodations tax, to enforce the rules.
Council received a report on how the City will improve winter operations service this year.
The City will maintain sidewalks 24 hours a day, seven days a week and improve communications with Councillors and residents. Service boundaries will change to better address the unique needs of urban, suburban and rural communities. Workers will employ more specialized equipment, including ice breakers that the City started piloting last winter.
Staff will review Council-approved maintenance quality standards for winter maintenance in 2020, focussing on residential roads and sidewalks. Council will consider recommendations in 2021.
Council approved an implementation plan that will create eight more community safety zones near schools across Ottawa. In these zones, fines are increased for Highway Traffic Act offences.
Council approved a plan to revitalize the historic Sparks Street pedestrian mall. Based on extensive public engagement, the plan will add greenery, cultural events, art installations and pedestrian amenities to create a more vibrant public gathering place year-round.
Developed in partnership with Public Services and Procurement Canada, the National Capital Commission, the Sparks Street Mall Authority and the Sparks Street Business Improvement Area, the revitalization is estimated to cost between $57 million and $83 million and will take about six years to complete, starting in 2022. The City will negotiate cost-sharing agreements with federal partners.
To help deter demolition by neglect, Council approved piloting a new heritage financial incentive program that will encourage restoration and preservation of mid- to large-scale heritage buildings. Eligible property owners could receive an annual grant valued at 75 per cent of the municipal property tax increase that is directly attributable to the restoration project. The grant can be awarded each year for up to 10 years, to a maximum of $500,000, but not to exceed 100 per cent of restoration costs. Staff will report on the pilot in 2022.
Council approved the not-for-profit Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards to mortgage its leasehold interest in the Innovation Centre building to a maximum of $4 million in private financing. This funding will be used for building upgrades and to add a two-storey addition to the property, to meet the growing demand for incubation and acceleration services for new companies. This project will help attract more businesses and start-ups to the innovation and technology hub, creating economic and job opportunities in Ottawa.
Property owners in Ottawa who are rebuilding after flooding will get relief from regulatory process. Council agreed that property owners should not have to get minor variances from the Zoning By-Law when repairing or rebuilding structures damaged during spring flooding. The City saw severe flooding in both 2017 and 2019.
Council approved the relief provisions in 2017 but set a repeal date of September 13, 2020. This revision makes the provisions permanent and provides clarity about which properties would qualify. The aim is to make it easier to rebuild on a less flood-prone location within a given lot. The changes impact properties in both urban and rural areas.