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Short term rental review

Short term rental review

The SCRD hosted a public meeting about short term accommodation rentals at the Pender Harbour School of Music on Feb. 27.  Area Director Leonard Lee attended to hear the discussions.  The fifteen people at the meeting included residents, bed and breakfast (B&B) operators, managers of properties in the short-term rental (STR) market and members of the area’s Advisory Planning Commission.

In a B&B, home occupants rent sleeping rooms in their primary residence on a daily or weekly basis, usually to individuals or couples.  These are allowed on most SCRD residential properties, subject to zoning regulations.  There are no SCRD rules governing STRs.  STRs can range from suites in homes to stand alone houses and cabins.  Some accommodate larger numbers of guests and many do not have a manager living at or close to the property.  Many are rented through online services like Airbnb or VRBO.

SCRD planners Andrew Allan and Yuli Siao explained that in 2017 their board requested a public consultation on housing policies.  The board wanted to look at how temporary rentals impact the local economy, residents of neighbouring properties and the supply of long term rental accommodation.  The board has now requested public input focusing on changes to existing regulations and adding rules for STRs.

Several people at the meeting questioned whether STR regulations were needed, as they were not aware of ongoing problems with these rentals. Siao stated that in 2017 less than 10 per cent of bylaw enforcement complaints received throughout the SCRD were related to short term rental issues.

Attendees noted that an increasing number of travellers prefer home-styled accommodations over hotel or motel rooms.  Property owners renting their cabins or homes to people visiting the Pender area was identified as a long-standing practice which attracts visitors to the area.  These visitors support local retailers, service providers and restaurants.

Many STR properties in the Pender area have belonged to families for generations. With the owners still using these units from time to time, they do not offer them on the fulltime rental market.  Some owners do short term rentals of their properties to offset increasing costs, such as property taxes.

Concerns were expressed about the “loss of a sense of neighbourhood” when multiple STRs operate within a small vicinity. One individual said that there were four STRs within a block of her home. She stated that traffic and noise created by STR clients does disrupt the lives of the permanent residents in her area.

To help address problems created for people living near STRs, there was support for introducing a requirement that off-site managers live within a reasonable distance of the rental property.  The SCRD proposed this be within 20 kilometers. Some at the meeting said having a manager resident at any location “on the Coast” would suffice.

A suggestion was made that if STRs were required to have permits, a directory of each STR’s management contact information be made accessible to the public.  If a neighbour of an STR had a concern, they could then get information on who to contact.  Having bylaw enforcement staff available to respond to complaints on evening and weekends was also suggested. Another comment was that realtors should be briefed on any regulation changes, so they can advise clients appropriately.

Connie Jordison

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