Finding a place to rent in Esquimalt isn’t easy – unless you’re only looking for a few days at a time.
More than 100 homes are listed as available in AirBnB in Esquimalt alone according to data amalgamation site insideairbnb.com.
According to the site of the 111 listings, 75 per cent are entire homes or apartments, with just over 24 per cent being private rooms. On average, these units are occupied 129 nights per year.
All of them, of course, are completely illegal.
“Zoning doesn’t allow short-term rentals, unless it’s zoned as a B&B [bed and breakfast],” said Bill Brown, director of development services in Esquimalt.
In 2018 the Township made changes to its Official Community Plan stating that a short-term rental could be legalized if an owner applied for an RS-4 or RS-4A zoning permit for a bed and breakfast. No extra taxes were associated with this zoning change. Regardless, the uptake on legalizing suites has been anticlimactic.
“No one has come forward,” Brown said. “Zero people.”
With that being said, bylaw enforcement against short-term rentals only happens on a complaint-based system, of which Brown said there have been very few. This adds an extra challenge for those looking for long-term rent, especially affordable units.
“The buildings we have in Esquimalt are subsidized or rent at well below market, so we tend to have waiting lists,” said Raymond Moss, director of property management at the Greater Victoria Housing Society.
Landlord BC, which provides resources for long-term rental landlords and property managers, also acknowledges short-term rentals as an ongoing problem. LandlordBC continues to be critical of short term rental platforms like AirBnB due to their negative impact on the supply of long-term rental housing stock in communities across BC,” said David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord BC in an email.
“While these platforms do permit home owners to leverage empty rooms in their primary residences to generate some additional income, which we completely support, the reality is that these platforms have increasingly morphed into commercial businesses with the result being badly needed long-term rental housing being removed from the supply pool. This is at a time when we have near zero vacancy rates and the result is increased housing precariousness for many renters.”
Comparatively, the City of Victoria has been cracking down on short-term rentals since Oct. 1, 2018 with the installation of a mandated business licence. The fee for the licence is $150 if the home is the person’s primary residence, or $1,500 if not. Illegal operators could face a fine of $500, which could be applied daily. In the first six months of the business licence mandate, the City brought in $800,000. Provincially, Airbnb remitted $14 million in PST and $4 million in MRDT in the first six months under its formal agreement with the province.
At this point, however, the Township doesn’t have any plans to adjust its short-term rental approach unless a swell of complaints comes forward.