Councillors in Gibsons have voted to move ahead with drafting bylaw amendments to regulate and license short-term rentals (STR), such as those booked through companies like Airbnb, but for now it only wants to allow STRs where the host is on site.
Council made the decision after hearing the results of a consultation on short-term rentals at its Dec. 3 meeting.
Planning consultant Odete Pinho said in a combination of discussion groups, which attracted mainly existing STR operators, and online surveys, three things stood out.
It was generally recognized that tourism is essential to the local economy and STRs have a role to play by “providing tourists with greater accommodations options.”
Regulations are needed, but they should be clear and include “conditions for managing operations that are compatible with residential neighbours.”
And, that it makes significant difference to compatibility with residential neighbours to have the owner on-site, or at least in the community, during guest stays versus having a non-resident-managed STR.
She also found that where people’s opinions seemed to differ most was on whether regulating STRs addresses the shortage of long-term rental homes. “Residents generally supported the Town protecting long-term rental housing supply… However, STR operators strongly believe the home owner should decide what to do with their property and several stated that STR spaces would be left vacant if they were restricted, and would not become long-term rentals,” Pinho said in her written report.
That was one of the points councillors said they want more information about.
Coun. Aleria Ladwig said when it’s legal for a single owner to have multiple properties, which could all be used as STRs, “I struggle with understanding how that doesn’t affect our long-term rental availability.”
“I think there’s more at play to our rental market and the short-term rental market than we’re being presented with today,” said Coun. Stafford Lumley.
Coun. David Croal also said he thinks the impact on the hotel sector needs to be considered, because “short-term rental basically eliminates any initiative of anyone to build a hotel, which inversely impacts on the community.”
“If you want to host an event and you have more than 40 people that you want to sit down for dinner, you have to put up a tent – there’s nowhere to do it. That’s the sort of thing a hotel would offer. There’s nowhere to meet for a convention. This whole aspect of the hospitality industry is being negatively impacted by short-term rentals,” Croal said.
Mayor Bill Beamish moved that council should move ahead with revising bylaws to allow regulation and licensing for “hosted” STRs only and come back to the issue of allowing un-hosted rentals after the housing needs assessment for the Sunshine Coast is completed next spring. Conventional bed and breakfast accommodation is already covered by the Town bylaws and business licence rules.
“Buying up a house and keeping it as a short-term rental in a neighbourhood doesn’t build a neighbourhood, and doesn’t build neighbours. I’ve seen it happen in other communities,” Beamish said of the impact of off-site owners using homes for STRs. “I find it hard to see us building community around empty houses that are rented out for one week at a time or two weeks at a time run essentially as a business.”