Last spring there were stories about individuals from Toronto coming to the County and buying up a half dozen houses on a single weekend for use as seasonal Airbnb-type accommodation. On August 1, 2019, we closed half our B&B business (reduced our available bedrooms from four to two) because our clientele were booking the cheaper Airbnb option. Last year was a very poor year for owner-occupied B&Bs.
When we brought this to our councillor’s attention, he admitted that the Municipality had been sleeping. He then quickly added that if we did not participate in the short term accommodators’ registration plan our B&B would be heavily fined. Yes, a very supportive and helpful reply.
Since then, a series of inappropriate actions have been rapidly enacted by the Municipality.
First, in an effort to control the infestation of Airbnbs in the County, a registration process was enacted which included owner-occupied B&Bs. The registration requirements are a seemingly endless litany of detailed questions, room measurements, proof of ownership, etc.
It’s an unbelievable and daunting list that almost goes as far as requiring that I be fingerprinted. And this is just to enable us to continue operating our B&B which opened in 1983. (By the way, we are the longest operating B&B in the County.)
Now, these part-time businesses are being forced to become tax collectors for the County to the tune of four per cent—for now. Apparently this money is needed to control and inspect the proliferation of Airbnbs (and to promote tourism…but there is no plan as yet). And the small number of owner-occupied B&Bs is indiscriminately lumped with them.
Show Council a potential new source of revenue and they will blindly jump on it without any thought or understanding.
“Make Tourists Pay” is their new motto. And make all accommodators, including long-established owner-occupied B&Bs, pay the price.
Just like our property taxes, the tax on short term accommodators, once it starts, will escalate year after year. Force the smallest and weakest of the accommodators—owner-occupied B&Bs—who run their part-time businesses as a necessary part of their livelihood—to help foot the bill and to help satisfy Council’s misdirected Make Tourists Pay mantra.
Picking on owner-occupied B&Bs is both outrageous and inappropriate. It’s only happening because we have been identified as the low-hanging fruit. Why not tax grocery store purchases? How about restaurant meals, gasoline, LCBO, Beer Store and craft brewery purchases? And don’t forget the wineries—the primary businesses responsible for the County’s tourist influx.
Why not set up tool booths at the bridges into the County where any non-residents get immediately taxed.
We think that our councillors would make excellent toll collectors since they are so eager to have this income steam.
And why not tax real estate agents who know full well if they are selling to legitimate families or Airbnb speculators? Being picked on by those who do not understand the business of tourism and how to handle it is a travesty and plainly disrespectful.
Isn’t another mantra of our Council to provide affordable housing? That must be a joke. We live in our home and invite tourists to join us on our property. We are not buying up houses for Airbnbs to destroy our neighbourhoods when they sit empty many months of the year.
Airbnbs have sucked that all away and sent many families packing from the County.
Why are owner-occupied B&Bs being penalized?
We are, in large part, the County’s tourist ambassadors.
Conrad Biernacki and Brian Musselwhite
Black River Bed and Breakfast