Short term rental owners are concerned about proposed amendments to city bylaw that would regulate their businesses.
John Bastemeyer and a group short-term rental owners, began operating their vacation rentals illegally despite wanting to be on the right side of the law and are frustrated that they will now need to conform to the new regulations, which they believe are significantly more restrictive.
“People want to conform, they want to operate legally, but they [the city] have stone walled everyone who tries,” said Bastemeyer.
“Five years ago we went to the city with a rezoning applications,” said one of the other home owners. “We paid our $1,800 fee and the application has been sitting there for five years now.”
If the city had issued their spot zoning at anytime over the last five years, they would have been exempt.
The current system requires home owners who wish to short-term rent to rezone their properties entirely. The new plan aims to put an end to that system, however anyone currently spot zoned will be exempt from these amendments.
Currently there are 29 spot zoned vacation rentals, a further 11, including Bastemeyer and his associates are on a waiting list. There have been no rezonings since 2017.
The intent of the proposed regulations is to improve neighbourhood dynamics, free up long term housing and cut out illegal short-term rental operations, according to city staff.
If approved, a live-in operator would be required 24/7 to address concerns, short-term rentals would be restricted to secondary suites and the number guests would be limited. Licenses for short term rentals would also be limited to 300, although comprehensive development zones would be exempt.
Coun. Jackie Rhind said that the goal is to provide a clear framework for home owners who may wish to short-term rent, to do so legally. Four bylaws will need to be amended.
Bastemeyer is not confident that the new plan will achieve its goal of freeing up long-term housing. He said that the rental rates for his luxury home would be too high to have a real impact on the affordable housing market.
The secondary suite restriction is one of the prongs designed to target and relieve the long-term housing crisis, said Coun. Jackie Rhind who initially proposed the change.
“The worry, since we are balancing a large shortage of long-term housing, is that people may transform the larger part of their homes into a vacation rental,” said Rhind. “It’s an issue of numbers, in terms of how many beds or bedrooms are we going to take away from the long term housing supply if we allow that.”
Others, argue it will have the opposite effect.
In a council report, city staff said restricting STR’s to secondary suites could take lower-cost, long-term rentals off the market.
Stephen Jenkins, owner of the Explorer Society and Quarter Master Eatery, is apprehensive that this last-minute adjustment could have bigger implications than anticipated.
“We could be encouraging secondary suites to be removed from housing availability for our long-term rental populations, including seasonal workers that often refuse job offers here due to a lack of housing,” wrote Jenkins in a letter to the city council.
An additional complaint about the secondary suite restriction is that it doesn’t fit the needs of all guests.
Bastemeyer said many guests travel with their whole families and require more space than a hotel or a secondary suite can typically provide.
The proposed occupancy cap of six would also affect holiday goers.
Jenkins said that would further encourage illegal operations.
Another concerned citizen, Kirk Pitaoulis, wrote in a letter to city council.
“I would want the option of renting either suite depending on what my financial needs and physical space needs are at the time, and what the tax situation becomes. By limiting what I can rent in my own home you may very well be limiting my ability to stay in this community.”
Though Rhind understands that people use their homes to supplement their income, she said this amendment provides a way to generate income without repurposing the house from a residential home to a business.
Bastemeyer and the other home owners are frustrated that they are subject to these new restrictions when comprehensive development zones aren’t.
“The difference is that we are zoned for nightly rentals and they’re not,” said David Evans, developer of Mackenzie Village. “Meaning people who buy in CD zones know what they’re getting, they know they may be living next to someone who is vacation renting, it’s not an unknown.”
Evans also said Mackenzie Village is stratified, meaning that they can address any nuisances as they occur, through their own bylaws.
Rind explained that while you can’t please everyone this legislation has been a long time coming. Part of the reason restrictions are so tough, according to Rhind, is because it’s easier to loosen restrictions, if needed, than it is to tighten them.
The proposed amendment is up for a public hearing in September, the date is yet to be determined. This will be the final opportunity for residents to express their concerns or their support over this important issue. Rhind, Bastemeyer, Jenkins all encouraged people to attend and express their views.