Short term rental regulations are one step closer to reality in Victoria, despite the overwhelmingly negative feedback recently provided by residents and current vacation rental operators.
Sitting as committee of the whole Thursday, council approved a draft short term rental (STR) bylaw that would limit use to one or two bedrooms in a primary residence, or to whole units temporarily while the person who lives there is away. Fees for existing short term rentals were also considered.
According to city staff, feedback suggested secondary suites should be allowed for short term rentals, but they did not recommend this change.
“We heard that many owners of secondary suites wanted to be able to use them as STRs, despite not living in the unit,” said city planner Shannon Jamison. “Secondary and garden suites are an important supply of rental housing, and therefore no change is proposed to the regulations.”
Council also heard results of community engagement sessions and survey responses conducted by city staff following a bylaw amendment in September that removed short term rentals (STRs) from acceptable land use in transient zones.
According to the staff presentation, the majority of this round of feedback was related to the cost of business licences for STRs in non-principal residences, the only places full-unit vacation rentals will be allowed because they had been legally operating before the bylaw changes came into effect.
“Many felt that the $2,500 fee was too high and punitive,” Jamison said, adding that staff recommended further analysis to determine a more appropriate fee.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday said they aren’t going to be able to make everyone happy, but he supported the draft bylaw.
“I think this is a balanced approach that will allow some flexibility … while we make sure whole units of housing aren’t being taken out of the housing market,” he said. “I also support the idea of reviewing the $2,500 fee. We don’t want to be punitive.”
Blake MacKenzie, who created the Facebook group Greater Victoria Short Term Rental Alliance and who has worked in vacation rental sector since 2004, said he is glad council is reconsidering the licensing fee, but he sees limiting rentals to a primary residence – and excluding garden suites or carriage houses – as unfair.
“Most of the people that are doing this have stated, at least to us, that they have never had the intention to rent it out long-term … because they use it. It’s part of their lifestyle,” he said. “Our suggestion would be to create a regulatory framework that works for all, much like in the city of Seattle: run it for a few years, get the data you need, then see what the actual impact is.”