On February 13, the thorny issue of short term rentals (STRs) came back to the SCRD Planning Committee for decisions. The rural directors voted 4-1 not to proceed with Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) as a tool for dealing with the problems created by STRs in residential neighbourhoods.
Note: This only applies to residential properties without an owner living on site. Conventional B&Bs are not causing a problem, and they will continue to be permitted.
I was one of the directors who voted against TUPs and below I have listed my reasons why. In the meantime, the board moved to take the only action we can that would be in effect by this summer, which is to raise the fines to the maximum allowed under BC law ($500 or $1000, depending on the avenue used for the ticket). The current fine is $150.
Here’s my reasoning:
- I’ve heard estimates that there are as many as 1,400 STRs operating on the Sunshine Coast. The numbers have increased enormously year over year, with many investors buying homes only to rent them out to visitors. Meanwhile, we have a desperate affordable housing shortage. We can’t afford to lose accommodation needed for people who live and work here.
- STRs are fundamentally unfair, because they are commercial operations, but only pay taxes at a residential rate. TUPs would not change the taxation; only rezoning would do that. (Commercial properties pay approx. 2.5 X the residential rate.)
- In a report to our Feb. 13 meeting, staff estimated that it would take 23 hours of staff time to process each TUP, and that does not include all the time required to set up the bylaws, forms, and procedures. All of that work and any costs not covered by application fees would be subsidized by residential taxpayers.
- Hotels and motels must meet regulatory requirements, be inspected for health and safety, and pay hefty taxes and fees. This is not a level playing field for the tourism industry. STRs are mini hotels that operate without oversight while their operators basically get away with taxation murder.
- The Regional District of Nanaimo recently won a BC supreme court decision that short term rentals with no owner living on site are not a legitimate “residential” use of property. I might add that zoning rules exist for a reason, and these operations fly in the face of our Official Community Plan.
- Dealing with STR complaints is sucking up the time of our bylaw officers, police, and fire departments, not to mention causing enormous stress to neighbours. Problem owners are ignoring the rules now; why do we think they would bother to apply for TUPs?
This is far from the end of this issue. A draft bylaw, without TUPs, will be going to public hearing soon. But the real problem is that we need better enforcement tools to shut down offenders who create disruption and misery in residential neighbourhoods.
PUBLIC HEARING – Tues. June 30, 2020, 7:00 pm, via Zoom, details HERE.