City of Revelstoke looks at new vacation rental tactics

Staff report recommends active enforcement, cap on the number allowed, and a new public consultation period on vacation rentals.

Vacation rentals have proliferated in recent years thanks to websites like AirBnB

The city is preparing to change its tactics on addressing vacation rentals.

A long-awaited report by Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services, recommends the city actively enforces its vacation rental bylaw, and that it launch a one-month public consultation period on the issue.

It also suggests setting a cap on the number of vacation rentals and to find a way for them to contribute towards tourism marketing

As well, it recommends the city explore ways to have vacation rentals contribute to tourism marketing and for the city to prepare a welcome guide for customers.

Vacation rentals have been a serious issue around the world as they’ve grown due to the development of websites like AirBnB. Revelstoke is no exception, with the number of vacation rentals exploding in recent years.

The city tried to get a handle on the issue two years ago when it adopted a bylaw governing vacation rentals, but it chose not to actively enforce the bylaw, resulting in a proliferation of illegal short-term accommodation.

Proponents argue they spur development and meet the demand of tourists who don’t want to stay in hotels. Opponents say they disrupt neighbourhoods, while hoteliers argue they operate on an unfair playing field by not having to pay taxes.

Strachan’s report estimates there are about 100 vacation rentals with 300 rooms for rent in the city; only nine properties with 30 bedrooms are zoned for vacation rentals. Those resulted in only four complaints last winter.

Still, vacation rentals have been a hot topic issue; the agenda for council’s next meeting contains three letters on the matter. It is for that reason Strachan is recommending the city solicit feedback from the public on the matter.

The input already received this year will be added to the input received during the consultation period and reported back to council,” he wrote in his report. If approved, the public input period would take place from June 30 to July 30.

Strachan is also recommending a crackdown on illegal rental, focusing on ones advertising space for 10 or more people. Strachan says these represent safety issues and should be a priority for bylaw enforcement.

The other recommendations are to put a cap on the number of vacation rentals in the community, and to find a way for them to contribute to the Revelstoke Accommodation Association.

“The establishment of a maximum would likely become an incentive unto itself for legalization as owners realize they could at some point not have the option to legalize as the maximum has been reached,” write Strachan.

Council will discuss the report on Tuesday, June 14.