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Licensing shared-rentals a challenge for city hall

By Doug Hallett

Guelph Tribune

The city is facing big challenges as it prepares a plan to license shared-rental housing, after a previous attempt to deal with problems related to off-campus student housing through zoning changes ended up falling short.
“We seem to be going in circles. We hope we do not have another false start,” Daphne Wainman-Wood, president of the Old University Neighbourhood Residents’ Association, told city council last week.
“The situation in near-campus neighbourhoods continues to deteriorate,” she said.
A zoning bylaw amendment dealing with shared-rental housing, which was passed by council in September 2010, was repealed by council in late January. This decision came after the Ontario Human Rights Commission got involved in an appeal of the zoning amendment to the Ontario Municipal Board, which had been launched by a couple of local landlords.
One of those landlords, Donna Haley, argued at last week’s council meeting  that licensing of shared rental housing isn’t needed to deal with behavioural and safety issues in shared-rental housing. Provincial building and fire codes and the city’s property standards bylaw already cover these concerns, and enforcement tools already exist for them, she said.
Haley said that in Ontario, only the cities of Waterloo and London have enacted city-wide licensing bylaws for shared-rental housing, as Guelph is looking to do. She said Guelph should concentrate on enforcing its existing bylaws related to housing, instead of spending more money on pursuing a licensing system.
Among other things, the zoning bylaw amendment that council repealed in January imposed a 100-metre separation for two-unit properties – residential dwellings with accessory apartments – with a total of more than five bedrooms. It called for such houses to be at least 100 metres from any other accessory-apartment building of similar size, or from a lodging house or group home. A 100-metre separation rule for lodging houses, which has been in effect for years, remains in force.
An interim control bylaw passed by council in June 2010, which temporarily prohibited the development of any new shared-rental housing on residential property in Ward 5 and part of Ward 6, was officially repealed by council last week as a consequence of the city’s zoning-bylaw failure at the OMB.
“It is anticipated that licensing might be a useful tool in addressing some of the concerns previously raised by neighbourhood groups,” says a city staff report that went to the council meeting.
“Zoning regulations address the location, density and intensity of residential uses,” the report says.
“In comparison, licensing might be used to regulate the business and activity of renting buildings for residential use,” it says. “Licensing might be used to essentially govern how the business of rental housing may be carried out.”
And unlike new zoning regulations, new licensing regulations can be imposed on existing housing operations regardless of when they started, it says.
The process of working towards licensing in Guelph will include public input, as well as consultation with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, it says.

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