Why don't we allow Short Term Rentals with offsite operators?
In June of 2020 we confirmed our bylaw prohibiting the short term (less than 30 days) rental of properties without a manager or caretaker living on the premises. Bylaw 310 (our zoning bylaw) also specifies that at most 2 bedrooms per property are permitted as STR's, and they are prohibited on properties smaller than 2000 square meters (1/4 acre) that are zoned R1.
Here are the reasons:
1. We are in a housing crisis. Allowing off-site operators does nothing to help this situation, in fact, it exacerbates it. We have heard many complaints about STR being part of the cause of this housing crisis.
2. Those people wishing to rent out their entire house on STR will likely have more than 2 bedrooms, which is the 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.
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 we don't 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's. 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. Off-site managed STR's don't contribute to the neighbourhood or immediate community. In fact, they often cause problems from excessive noise, parking issues, trash creation and a feeling of transience in the community. What creates community is people living in it, creating relationships, being good neighbours.
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. Hotels need to pay commercial tax rates, adhere to fire safety regulations and have other regulatory requirements that make it difficult to compete with STR's. If we want employers and investment by tourism operators, we need to level the playing field.
7. 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. 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.