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Revelstoke will explore opting in for short-term rental laws

The B.C. Legislature announced the bill on Monday, Oct. 16
The provincial government has tabled legislation to limit short-term term rentals Monday (Oct. 16), but not everywhere in the province. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Government of British Columbia announced a landmark piece of legislation on Monday (Oct. 16) that takes aim at short-term rentals, and the changes it could bring would be significant for Revelstoke.

“I look at it as a positive,” said Revelstoke Mayor, Gary Sulz.

Over the past several years, short-term renting ballooned into a billion-dollar industry affecting cities, towns, and villages around the world. Revelstoke was no exception to the boom — in fact, the city was perhaps the perfect storm as the ski resort steadily established itself as a premier destination for adventure seekers around the world, while the community struggled to keep up with the constant accommodation demands of tourism and residents alike. Investors came in, rents soared, and so did the cost of housing. While there’s certainly no silver bullet to fixing the housing crisis, Sulz and Revelstoke’s head of planning and development services, Paul Simon, said the new legislation is sure to help control local short-term rentals (STRs), which is a step in the right direction.

The legislation from the provincial government broke down three overarching strategies that it intends to use to help ‘rein in’ STRs.

  • Increasing fines and better tools for local governments

Currently, fines for STR violations are capped at $1,000 per day, per infraction. Under the new legislation, fines of up to $3,000 per infraction, per day, will be available immediately after the bill gets Royal Ascent STR platforms (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) will be required to provide data to the province about hosts’ listings, which municipalities will have access to and make enforcement more effective. Simon explained how the feature would help compared to the old system.

“It was incredibly challenging for staff to ascertain where these properties are actually located and get the evidence that is needed from an enforcement perspective,” said Simon.

Whether it’s a full house or one unit in a multi-unit building, the municipality will know exactly where the STRs are. STR platforms will also have to remove listings that fail to show their operating licence number within a few days.

  • Releasing short-term rental units for long-term use

Under phase two of the legislature, slated to take effect in May 2024, the provincial government will require STRs to only be provided in the principal residence of a host, as opposed to an investment property. The caveat to the principal host requirement that, at the onset, seemed to prevent Revelstoke from using it was that it didn’t apply to resort municipalities unless they opted in.

“I was a little disappointed that the comment was those under 10,000 population would have to opt in,” began Sulz, adding “Why would we not opt-in?”

The City of Revelstoke will be seeking to opt into the principal residence stipulation, which could mean that any STR property where the homeowner lives neither in the unit nor on the property (garden/laneway suite), would be in contravention of the legislature and could face daily fines of up to $3,000.

While the city pursues opting in, both Sulz and Simon said they expect the devil to be in the details.

“I view it, if it’s done the right way, it would set a really solid baseline and then the city can build upon that,” said Simon.

One of the ways that the city could build upon it is by deciding which areas the principal residence requirement would apply. Simon said he would consider adapting the rule to allow non-permanent residence to short-term rent near the resort, rather than having the STRs spread out in neighbourhoods around the city.

As part of the second strategy to address STRs, Simon said he was most impressed with the ‘removing legal non-conforming use clause’. If legal non-conforming sounds oxymoronic, that’s because it is. The clause was a legal framework that allowed for ‘grandfathering in’, meaning those who had properties listed as STRs in an area where they were prohibited prior to the clause, didn’t have to obey it.

The new legislation will remove the clause, meaning there will be no exceptions to the legislature, no matter how long the STR was there.

“Technically speaking, it’s a complete game changer for local government,” said Simon.

The City of Revelstoke already had its own bylaws preventing STRs owned by non-permanent Revelstoke residents in certain areas of the city, but many were able to continue operating under the legal non-conforming clause.

  • Establishing provincial rules and enforcement

The provincial government will require hosts to register their properties with a provincial registry that the municipal government will have access to. The province will also be launching a STR compliance and enforcement unit.

As the legislation is rolled out, Sulz said the city would have a lot to consider. Public consultation regarding the opting-in of the principal residence stipulation may happen, but Sulz couldn’t speak to a timeline due to how recently the legislation was announced.

“We need to be methodical about how we choose or not choose to leverage this as a tool to support the community and what its needs are,” said Simon.

He also welcomed public input about the legislature to help inform the city on how it should move forward.

“We know that there’ll be some struggles and we’ll work through them. And you know what, we may not get it perfect. But at least we’re going to get somewhere that’s better than where we’re at now,” said Sulz.

READ MORE: Province to limit short-term rentals in some B.C. communities, but not all

Zach Delaney

About the Author: Zach Delaney

I came to the Revelstoke Review from Ottawa, Ontario, where I earned a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.
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