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City of Victoria look to restrict short-term vacation rentals

Victoria councillors have agreed to move ahead with new regulations restricting short-term vacation rentals despite strong push back from many homeowners who rent their secondary suites through platforms such as Airbnb. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP/Getty Images

VICTORIA — Victoria councillors have agreed to move ahead with new regulations restricting short-term vacation rentals despite strong push back from many homeowners who rent their secondary suites through platforms such as Airbnb.

“I think it’s important to move forward with strong regulations relating to short-term rentals,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.

“We have a housing crisis. We also have a lack of fairness between this unregulated body of the transient accommodation sector and the more conventional hotels and motels, and bed and breakfasts.”

In September, city council enacted zoning changes covering much of downtown that removed an option to legally offer rentals of less than 30 days.

City staff heard plenty of opposition to tighter restrictions during an open house on the issue, which was understandable, since it was mostly attended by short-term vacation rental operators.

“We heard that many owners of secondary suites wanted to be able to use them as despite not living in the unit,” Shannon Jamison, a city planning analyst told councillors, something that is inconsistent with council direction.

“Secondary and garden suites are an important source of long-term rental housing and, therefore, no change is proposed to the regulations.”

Staff say that, overall, there was a lack of understanding that the use of an entire secondary or garden suite as a vacation rental has never been a permitted use in neighbourhoods outside downtown.

Vacation rentals still will be permitted in up to two rooms in a house, provided it is the owner’s principal residence.

The zoning change means condo units being operated as short-term rentals through platforms such as Airbnb will be grandfathered in, but lose that status if they are not operated as a short-term rental for a six-month period. Short-term rentals will not be allowed in developments now under construction downtown.

A proposed business licensing fee of up to $2,500 a year for the grandfathered in units met with strong opposition, staff said.

Many people said the fee is too high and punitive so councillors agreed with staff recommendations to take another look to better align the amount with the cost of administering the program and to consider different fee structures.

The city also plans to hire a third party to watch for vacation rentals being operated contrary to zoning or regulations.

Proposed regulations that were met with general acceptance will require all short-term rental operators to obtain a business licence and to comply with requirements such as displaying a business licence number in all advertisements and adhering to all city bylaws, including noise and nuisance bylaws.

Under the draft short-term rental bylaw, operators would be required to:

• Supply proof of principal residence.

• Meet the business licence requirement.

• Pay business licence fees (yet to be determined).

• Provide a letter from the strata council that the rental is not contrary to strata bylaws

• Provide a letter from the property owner as proof of permission to operate a short-term rental.

• Be in compliance with city bylaws.

• Post the business licence number in all short-term rental advertisements.

Fines for contravention will run between $100 and $10,000.

By Bill Cleverley Courtesy Vancouver Sun

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