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Calgary committee approves innovation fund request for short-term rental research

Calgary’s Executive Committee approved a $324,000 application to the Council Innovation Fund to do a deep dive on the city’s short-term rental (STR) market.

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian delivered the presentation to fellow members of the committee during Tuesday’s meeting.

The city had undertaken work last July on problem properties in the short-term rental market, including bylaw amendments, taxation and potential operational changes.

According to the documents circulated with the item on Tuesday, the funding would go to support a startup project grant to strike a research partnership with the University of Calgary.

“The focus of which is conducting a detailed study of Calgary’s short term rental market,” the admin report reads.

“The aim of the study is to understand the STR market more deeply and generate new ideas to improve it.”

In her presentation, Mian said it’s a struggle for many cities to find the right regulatory mix to govern short-term rentals. The deliverable would be an adaptable design, implementation and evaluation guide for the STR market.

She said Dr. Lindsay Tedds and her team at the University of Calgary are some of the leading researchers in this space.

“They could provide an evidence-based analysis of how our market is doing, what’s changed since the pandemic and how effective our enforcement and compliance has been,” Mian said.

Mian said she’s also engaged hotel and motel owners, STR owners, Airbnb and others, who are willing to participate in the work.

“I’m sure you can appreciate this level of analysis, this is really important, but it’s a bit beyond the scope of what administration would normally undertake,” Mian said.

Work done in house

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp quizzed admin on why this work couldn’t be done in-house. There is a corporate analytics team already, she said.

“Why can’t we be using folks in the corporate management center and just keep this in house and leverage some of the expertise from the University of Calgary instead of dipping into like a fund to pay resources at the University of Calgary,” Coun. Sharp said.

Coun. Mian was quick to respond, saying she initiated this work, not admin.

“I think, and correct me if I’m wrong administration, I don’t know if they would have brought this now given all of the other various priorities to be looking forward and looking ahead,” Mian said.

Sharp supported the request after hearing frankly from city administration they wouldn’t have the bandwidth to meet the timelines if it was done in-house. Even if they hired more resources to conduct the work.  

The item was approved unanimously. It now must receive final approval at a full meeting of council.

If approved at that time, administration would report back on the report outcomes in two years (Q4 2024).