It’s not exactly what they asked for, but short-term rental operators are happy to get some relief on the licence fees they pay to the town.
John Foreman, president of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed and Breakfast Association, was at council Monday to ask for consideration of a 50 per cent one-time reduction in licensing fees as they face “a second consecutive historically bad year. It is likely that the entire first half of the year will be lost, and the prospects for the rest of the year depend on the rate at which restrictions are lifted and the tourism industry recovers,” Foreman said.
In March, council was asked for a number of considerations to help short-term rental owners through what was expected to be a difficult year, and granted their requests, except for a 30 per cent reduction in 2021 fees.
Since then, some have already decided to forego this season for safety reasons, Foreman said, and “some others have closed forever. A higher than average number of STRs are up for sale. By our informal count, the number of B&Bs in NOTL is down by at least 15 per cent over the last 12 months.”
A fee reduction alone “won’t turn a bad year into a good one,” he said, “but it will definitely help.”
After asking Kyle Freeborn, town director of corporate services, if there was sufficient money left in a provincial pandemic recovery grant to cover a reduction in fees, Coun. Norm Arsenault made a motion to reduce fees by 33 per cent, which was approved.
Foreman said after the meeting while he would rather have seen the 50 per cent reduction approved, 33 per cent “is a meaningful amount.”
In addition to his appreciation of the savings, he said, he’s grateful to see the town and short-term rental operators working together in a more positive manner, having a better understanding of issues from both sides and moving forward on finding solutions both can agree on.