Why I don't like TUP's
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
This post is about implementing Temporary Use Permits to permit Short Term Rentals like AirBnB in a Regional District.
I am intending to propose an abandonment of the TUP process and to not permit off-site operators at all, and to instead require that a primary resident must be present at all times.
Here are my reasons:
1. We are in a housing crisis. Allowing off-site operators does nothing to help this situation, in fact, it exacerbates it. I have heard many complaints about STR being part of the cause of this housing crisis. The proposed bylaw does nothing to change the status quo.
2. Those people wishing to rent out their entire house on STR will likely have more than 2 bedrooms, which is the proposed maximum limit. Why not require a caretaker to live long-term in the extra bedroom? This is the approach Tofino has and it provides affordable housing to those people we are short of.
3. If you want to argue the tourism benefit of renting out houses, our problem in summertime is not to increase the number of visitors, but to have the staff to serve the ones that come. Local tourism businesses have no problem paying bills in summer, but to keep the doors open in winter because of staff shortages and lack of year-round clientele.
When you look at the economic benefits of tourism to the Coast, due to the lack of a mature tourism industry the local benefits are limited. The rental income goes to people who often live off-Coast, and apart from the restaurants and maybe the gravity park there are no paying attractions here. The visitors use our parks and facilities and contribute very little to the local economy. The handful of caretakers of off-site properties don’t warrant the extra resources we have to throw at issuing TUP permits, all paid by us, the taxpayers.
4. Owning a second home has been, and should continue to be, a luxury. Even ignoring the egregious use of resources and energy they represent, our planet has limited real estate and I don’t think we need to encourage second home ownership by allowing people to use it as an investment. Those saying they’ve had this vacation home for generations were able to pay for it before STR. If they can’t pay the property tax, put in a caretaker suite for long-term renters, then STR it, or sell it to people who want to live here.
5. We are creating the TUP to prevent adverse impacts to the community, but does off-site STR actually add to the immediate community in any way? I would say no. What creates community is people living in it, creating relationships, being good neighbours. So get a primary resident or sell the property so that neighbours can live there.
6. If there is a tourism accommodation shortage on the Coast, let’s not sacrifice community to create it. Supply will match demand if it’s there. That’s what hotels and resorts are for, or legitimate B&B’s. I spent 10 years working in the tourism industry, and if we want real tourism, including the investment in some meaningful new accommodation like hotels and small to medium conference facilities, then we need to send a clear message to the industry saying that we do not permit off-site STR's, but we have demand.
7. Staff has mentioned that one of the primary considerations is that STR use remains an auxiliary use. The TUP permit for off-site operators 100% contravenes that. There was a court case in the Regional District of Nanaimo that ruled that vacation rental of homes is, in fact, not a residential use, and our zoning does not allow it as currently written. STR is a commercial use, yet they don't pay commercial taxes and are operating in residential zoned areas. A TUP does not make up for the difference, in fact it barely covers the costs of administering it. If Regional Districts were able to issue business licenses, then those might be a tool to create a more level playing field by making the cost of the business license the equivalent of a commercial tax rate on the STR operator.
8. By not allowing TUP’s, hard to enforce limits like 2 bedrooms and 2 people per bedroom limits can be eliminated or modified, so that larger families and groups can be accommodated, and due to the requirement of an onsite operator party houses would be eliminated.
9. TUP’s are valid for 3 years, with an opportunity to renew once. This means that we’re only pushing the problem down the line, or that owners have to reapply every 6 years.
The TUP process is complicated and onerous for both applicants and staff. My proposed idea is clear, uncomplicated and low-cost. It creates affordable housing, community and removes problem properties. It means somebody accountable is there to deal with complaints and to ensure that rules are followed. We don’t need off-site operations in our community, just like Tofino doesn’t need them.
10. Those STR's that aren't a problem now may apply for the $1400+ TUP, but the application process can do nothing but bring discord into the community if even one neighbour doesn't like the idea of having one there. Those that are a problem now will continue to ignore regulations. Why would they suddenly comply if they are already not doing so?
I am aware that this approach will likely take away the livelihood of a group of people on the Coast, and that is not an easy thing to do. Short term rentals, especially those without an onsite operator, are currently not permitted either, so these businesses were built on a shaky foundation to start with. I am looking at this through the lens of the best interest of the whole community, and at times hard decisions have to be made. I argue that the TUP process with a 2 bedroom limit would also severely curtail the business of those managing STR rentals, and so I think it would be clearer and more effective to just close the door on the option altogether.