Prince Edward County grapples with housing shortage amid Airbnb boom


Craig Foster knows first-hand about the short-term rental issues in Prince Edward County. Following his divorce about three years ago, he struggled to find a suitable rental home.

“I was forced to bounce into three different apartments in the span of two years because there was nothing available for more than three months at a stretch,” said the news director at community radio station 99.3 County FM.

“I’ve got two little girls and I’m having to take these little Airbnb places just to have somewhere to bring my little girls to and having to move every few months,” he said.

More recently, his other daughter, 20, has left to live in Deseronto, a town east of the County, with her partner and new baby because they couldn’t find somewhere affordable closer to her family, he said.

Short-term rentals have been blamed for reducing Toronto’s tight housing stock, and turning some condos into “ghost hotels” that undercut the traditional accommodation business.

But in Toronto’s summer playground to the east, the issue of short-term accommodation is more complicated. At its peak, there were 1,500 short-term rental listings in Prince Edward County. That’s about 9 per cent of dwellings in the area, say county officials. Eighty per cent, or 1,200 of those, are entire homes. Only 20 per cent are owner occupied or traditional bed and breakfasts.

On one hand, there aren’t many big hotels in the County, so the rentals provide beds for the tourists who increasingly flock to its beaches, wineries and farm-to-table eateries.

On the other, they can irritate locals and have reduced the already tight housing supply to the point where employers cite the scarcity as the biggest barrier to attracting workers to grow their businesses.

A county staff report last year indicates a Toronto-like 0.81 per cent vacancy rate “and greater demand for housing than the current residential development market can support.”

Year-round residents say short-term accommodations have helped drive up real-estate prices in bucolic, flower-box towns such as Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton, and brought unwelcome late-night noise, towering campfires, overflowing parking and garbage.