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Short-term rentals in the spotlight

Short-term rentals in the spotlight

Short-term rentals will be the topic of a Sunshine Coast Regional District public consultation process that is rolling out in the coming weeks.

At the May 11 meeting of the SCRD’s planning and community development committee, regional directors gave the green light to a two-stage public engagement plan.

The SCRD already regulates bed and breakfasts via zoning bylaws, and does place some limitations on short-term rentals. “Short term” is considered to be less than 30 days. The primary difference between B&Bs and other rentals is that B&Bs must have an on-site resident or owner operating the service.

Andrew Allen, manager of planning and development, explained the plan:

“Phase 1 is reaching out and discussing and looking at options, hearing from folks. Phase 2 would be assembling the information we’ve heard, creating some options and then having specific engagement based on what we think are suitable options for potential regulation of short term rentals.”

The SCRD has deliberately timed this consultation in the hopes of reaching non-resident property owners, who typically visit the coast in summer. Just over 50 per cent of the residential properties on the Sunshine Coast are owned by non-residents.

As well as seeking general public input, the SCRD will be consulting a list of stakeholders which includes B&B owners, the tourism sector, community groups, property management companies, other local governments, users of short term rentals and neighbours.

The SCRD last discussed short-term rentals in 2012 and decided to take no action, but since then a rising number of neighbour complaints and an affordable housing crisis has upped the priority of the issue.

Area F Director, Ian Winn, had his eye on the big picture. “I’m very pleased to see that the other three local governments could be working with the Sunshine Coast Regional District and gathering the data,” said Winn.

Winn wants to see all the local governments on the coast “set common regulations and standards,” noting that people find the different bylaws and regulations in the various jurisdictions confusing.

Although Sechelt and Gibsons have expressed interest in the SCRD’s short-term rentals initiative, a consistent approach may not be possible. Municipalities can require short-term rental operators to have a business licence (an approach that many other communities in BC have taken) but the regional district does not issue business licenses.

Results of the engagement process will be reported to the Planning and Community Development Committee in the third quarter of 2017.

Donna McMahon

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