Debate Ensues over Tourist Accommodations in Canmore, Canada

Following recent Canmore council directive, the Town may phase out the controversial tourist home categorization and possibly levy a tax to encourage such homes to return to the market.

If council approves the idea when it returns later this year or early in 2025, the mountain community’s residences might be phased away gradually.

Before obtaining council approval for a choice having long-term ramifications, it’s important to consult the public and consider other solutions.

According to Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s regional policy director in Canada and the northeastern United States, the town must consider the potential consequences of any change.

“Canmore is clearly a very important destination in Canada for all the right reasons. “It’s a beautiful location, and many people want to stay there,” he explained.

“If I lived in Canmore and went away for the winter, I should be able to short-term rent out my flat when I’m not there. Individuals who have invested because they go to Canmore on weekends to ski or hike, but wish to recoup part of their investment during the rest of the year, should be able to rent it out short-term.

He stated that a destination location, such as Canmore, will frequently implement a register system so that the municipality knows who is operating the short-term rental and can guarantee that it is following municipal ordinances such as noise and safety protocols.

He used the example of Whistler, which requires short-term rentals to acquire a business licence and restricts their use to specified locations, including residential districts, but also urged any municipality to examine potential negative economic repercussions.

“We absolutely work with any city who wants to do this, but most cities will put in place a basic registry first to show who’s operating, how are they operating, how often they’re operating and get a sense of that before start putting in place any restrictions or other things to deal with other challenges,” she said.

Rotman, a former national director for the NDP and chief of staff to Rachel Notley when she was premier, said Airbnb is still dedicated to working with towns to regulate short-term rentals or improve current rules.

“We’ll collaborate with communities around the world that have varied rules to tailor to their individual needs. The Catskills in New York and the Rocky Mountains in Alberta are distinct locations with unique demands, and we will collaborate with them as they seek to implement special restrictions.”

The Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA), which represents and advocates for regional developers, stated that the proposals are in the early stages and that they would be unable to comment until more information on proposed bylaws and regulations is provided.

“On the face, the proposed changes will have a wide-ranging effect on the community and it is important that the Town of Canmore is not too hasty in moving forward without attempting to determine the unintended consequences of the proposed changes,” said Brian Talbot, who is also the chair of BOWDA.

Canmore has 714 tourist residences, with 77 classified for personal use this year. Despite its tiny size, it somewhat outnumbers the available unit rentals, which stand at 587 in 2022.

Tourist houses increased from 515 to 685 between 2013 and 2022, while more are anticipated in council-approved area structure plans such as Silvertip and Three Sisters Village, which call for 900-1,300.

Though tourist homes are in the council’s crosshairs, this does not mean that existing tourist home approvals will be halted. This month, the Town’s planning department authorized development permits for a tourist home with an ancillary dwelling unit on 2nd Avenue and an apartment complex with 29 units and 31 tourist homes at 1606 Spring Creek Gate, both of which aligned with the land use bylaw.


However, Mayor Sean Krausert stated that the removal of tourist residences is one of several alternatives for addressing the housing problem.

“This is one smaller piece of the puzzle,” he told me. “Tourist homes are growing more profitable and popular to build, and we must halt them before they completely undermine residential neighbourhoods where they are permitted.

“Because we already confine tourist residences to specific regions, we were ahead of the game. We’re not in the same dire condition as communities that didn’t have that limit in place, who are seeing a proliferation of tourist homes throughout their areas.”

He reminded tourist homeowners that any changes would limit the number of new tourist homes built, eventually grandfathering in existing ones.

Krausert noted that the most of the concerns he’d received came from tourist home owners, but that legally running ones will still exist.

However, Town staff will return with the option of raising the tax on such homes and possibly ending the provision that allows tourist homeowners to declare it for personal or commercial use on an annual basis.

“What we want to do is limit its expansion, so after a certain period of time, we will not authorize any more new tourist residences. “The current legal tourist homes will be allowed to continue operating,” he stated. “As we’re moving to limit new ones being approved, we’re also going to be ramping up enforcement of illegal ones.”

A joint study by the Conference Board of Canada and Airbnb examined 330 areas in 19 Canadian cities from 2016 to 22 to determine if the short-term rental business affected rental rates.

The study, which was published last October and received funding and five years of data from Airbnb, discovered that short-term rentals had little impact on rental costs.

“Policies implemented by cities and provinces to regulate short-term rentals have significantly reduced Airbnb activity, though we find no evidence that these policies have resulted in lower rents,” according to the report. “Restrictions limiting short-term rentals to a host’s principal place of residence are associated with a nearly 50 per cent reduction in the number of Airbnbs.”

The cities chosen ranged from major hubs like Toronto and Vancouver to mid-sized ones like Windsor and London.

The study discovered that Airbnbs had little to no impact on rents, but it also assumed that rents in the investigated neighbourhoods would have evolved in the same way without Airbnbs and used market data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

“We make no claim that were Airbnb activity to increase further, it would not cause rents to increase,” the authors of the study wrote. “Indeed, our key reason for why Airbnb has no meaningful impact on rental prices is that its share of the housing stock is too tiny to have a material impact on prices. If Airbnb’s percentage of the housing stock increases, we expect this finding to change.”

According to Rotman, the study indicated that Airbnb postings had little impact on the housing market in both regulated and unregulated cities.

He stated that rents in Vancouver continued to rise monthly, with the exception of 2020 during the COVID-19 epidemic, and vacancy rates remained low.

“They discovered that short-term rentals have an inconsequential impact on the total housing market. Even in cities where they’ve been regulated, there hasn’t been a comparable fall in rent to match elimination, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.”

“When you restrict hosting, even in cities where there’s been thousands and thousands of short-term rentals removed from the market, we have not seen those properties return to the long-term housing market at a one-to-one rate.”


Tourism Canmore Kananaskis (TCK) reported that in 2022, visitors spent $763 million in the region. However, discounting accommodation, spending was $322.75 million, with a total of $26.5 million spent on 685 tourist residences.

Rachel Ludwig, CEO of TCK and member of the task group, is optimistic that the recommendations would address the persistent labor problem for businesses.

“The lack of non-market housing is affecting Canmore’s ability to attract and retain workers in Canmore, which negatively impacts our businesses and overall visitor spend,” she went on to say. “We have seen restaurants close some days this past summer or stores shorten their opening hours because of lack of staff caused by the housing shortage.”

She added that taxing Canmore’s unique tourist homes at a higher commercial rate “levels the playing field with other commercial uses while protecting visitor accommodation that brings approximately $30 million in revenue to our restaurants, downtown shops, and activity providers.”

According to the Canmore retail gap analysis and light industrial and commercial property assessment research, visitor retail expenditure in 2022 is estimated to be $256 million, with seasonal resident households spending $25 million.

According to Airbnb data, 65% of Canmore rentals are in regions without hotels. In a poll of Airbnb Canadian hosts, 53% indicated they use the revenue to pay rising living expenses, 47% to help them stay in their homes, and 41% to make ends meet.

According to a 2023 analysis from the University of Calgary, the majority of short-term rental homes are listed by persons who are traveling or spending their winters in warmer areas.

The study, which collaborated with the City of Calgary to look particularly at the city, discovered that 74% of the city’s houses advertised on Airbnb and Vrbo are not permanent. However, it discovered that approximately 1,500 listings (28%) may be returned to the housing market.


In British Columbia, the speculation and vacancy tax enables 59 designated communities to collect money from residents who own property in the province but do not pay the majority of their taxes in Canada.

It was implemented in 2018 and, when combined with recent legislation to restrict short-term rentals, is intended to increase housing availability in communities while reducing the amount of abandoned properties.

According to the City of Vancouver’s empty homes tax annual report for 2022, there will be 1,156 vacant properties in 2022, down from 1,755 in 2020. Principal residences increased from 132,205 in 2020 to 135,238 in 2022, while tenanted homes rose from 56,660 in 2020 to 58,819.

According to the study, the City received $32.5 million in 2022 through tax levies and fines, while 12,806 audits were performed and 871 complaints were filed against property owners.

The City of Toronto also imposes an empty home tax, which its council adopted in 2021. According to a report to the City Council last September, the City received $54 million and had 2,336 properties declared empty in February 2022, with that number dropping to 2,161 by August 2023.

In November, the federal government announced intentions to phase out income tax benefits for non-compliant short-term rental properties, as well as $50 million over three years to bolster municipal enforcement of short-term rentals. However, no legislation has passed.

The federal government introduced legislation to prohibit foreign ownership in 2022 and stated on Sunday (Feb. 4) that the prohibition will be extended for a further two years, until 2027.

This means that foreign firms, non-Canadian citizens, and permanent residents are unable to purchase housing in Canada. It also includes unoccupied land zoned for residential use.

“By extending the foreign buyer ban, we will ensure that houses are used as homes for Canadian families and not as a speculative financial asset class,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated in a press release.

According to a recent Calgary Real Estate Board report, Canmore has the highest benchmark price in southern Alberta, at $914,050. The next highest was Chestermere, which cost $651,900. The benchmark price for Canmore increased from $845,183 in 2022.

It also had a decrease in new listings from 669 in 2023 to 722 in 2022, while inventory climbed by 128 last year, up from 115 in 2022.

Though the possibility of tourist residences could see the class phased out, Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL) ASPs would be exempt.

The Three Sisters Village ASP, approved by council in October after the Court of Appeal upheld the Land and Property Rights Tribunal’s findings, will include between 900 and 1,300 tourist homes.

Ben Brunnen, the founder and principal of Verum Consulting, who the Town engaged to assist with the work, stated in a January staff report that it would be “subject to discussions with the developer.”


Brunnen pointed out that the Municipal Government Act does not allow towns to levy a vacant property tax, although they can designate subclasses for residential properties.

He pointed out that “it’s likely within this authority for the Town to create a primary residence subclass,” but he added that he “would not be surprised to see someone try to challenge this legally.”

Therese Rogers, the Town’s general manager of corporate services, said that Town staff has conducted a first legal examination of it, and while it is likely to be challenged, everything presented to council will be legally verified and within municipal power.

“That’s part of the work we’re doing and will be doing as administration will be working with legal counsel to make sure what we’re bringing forward is within our authorities and you all as councillors are aware of what we can and can’t do and how we structure programs to make sure we’re compliant,” she said in a statement.

According to Scott Johnson, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ press secretary, the Municipal Government Act “provides municipalities with broad autonomy to determine the property taxation model that is most appropriate for their unique local circumstances.”

He stated that the MGA authorizes a council to make a bylaw establishing a sub-class, and that “it is up to municipalities to explain and justify to residents any differences in tax rates for residential sub-classes.”

The MGA mandates local councils to establish a property tax bylaw each year, however the ratio of non-residential to residential rates cannot exceed 5:1. It also allows for varying tax rates for each assessment class or sub-class.

In a Thursday (Feb. 1) hearing before the House of Commons finance committee, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem urged governments throughout the country to collaborate to expand the supply of housing, arguing that monetary policy alone cannot fix inflation. He emphasized that speedier permission times give more assurance in the homebuilding process.

He stated that high borrowing rates can inhibit new residential building by increasing developer expenses and reducing demand for pre-construction signs.

A September report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) stated that additional housing is required to reduce costs. It anticipated that Alberta has 1.81 million housing units, which would need to be increased to 2.17 million by 2030. However, only 2.09 million units were anticipated to be affected by 2030, resulting in an 80,000-unit shortfall.

CHMC’s rental market report, released on January 31, indicated that rental units had expanded but not kept up with demand, with nationwide rental vacancy falling to 1.5 percent. It discovered that Alberta experienced the fastest population growth between 2022 and 2023, resulting in increased demand for housing and a decrease in supply.

Rotman highlighted that with the global housing crisis, one method will not solve all of the difficulties and must be considered as a whole.

“It’s a very complex problem. “We have a growing population, but we’re not building nearly enough,” he stated. “You add in interest rates and a number of other factors that are hampering construction and it’s obviously going to have an impact.”

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