Sechelt was first on the Coast to introduce short-term accommodation rental (STR) licensing in 2005. The municipality is looking to update STR regulations based on input gathered from residents on how changes in the short-term rental market have affected the community.
Members of council, who met as a committee of the whole on Dec. 8, indicated that creating regulations that ensure STRs are a better fit with existing neighbourhood values and protecting long-term accommodation supply are their top priorities for new rules.
The committee agreed that lower priority consideration should be given to rule changes that focus on promoting business equity, supporting the tourism industry and enabling property owners to have a second income.
“Short-term rentals have played a huge hand in how housing has unfolded on the Sunshine Coast over the last while. We need to counteract some of that effect on the housing market,” said committee chair Coun. Matt McLean.
The meeting began with a review of the current STR market and the community’s views toward it. Contractor EcoPlan International’s Odete Pinho detailed that there are 249 individual Sechelt properties listed with online vacation rental platforms like AirBnB. That number increased by 39 per cent between 2016 and 2021.
The committee gave direction on their priorities for the new rules and McLean asked Pinto to present ideas for new regulations at the committee’s Dec. 22 meeting. “That puts something on the table that we can bring to the community…the sooner we get something like that on the table, the sooner we can have productive conversations with the community.”
He noted that following the next committee review, the material would be provided to council and the public before regulation changes are considered as part of Sechelt’s zoning bylaw update.
During her presentation, Pinho characterized Sechelt’s current STR rules as “permissive” when compared to how other communities regulate the industry. Current regulations require STRs to obtain a business licence and to post a $1000 security deposit that can be used to offset municipal administrative and bylaw enforcement actions. She reported that in 2021, despite comparatively light regulations, less than half of the active STR operations in the municipality held business licences.
Sechelt began its review of STR regulations in 2020. The Town of Gibsons is currently undertaking a similar regulation review, also using EcoPlan as a consultant for its process. The Sunshine Coast Regional District updated its STR regulations in 2019.