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Qualicum Beach won’t authorize owner-occupant short-term vacation rentals

Council wants full review done in 2027
(PQB News photo)

The Town of Qualicum Beach will not authorize short-term vacation rentals outside of specific commercial exceptions.

The decision is expected to potentially reduce the town’s tourism revenue.

Council made the decision at its regular meeting on April 10. A majority of council wanted an in-depth study to be undertaken in 2027.

The provincial government recently legislated new regulations on short-term vacation rentals (STVR) as a way of alleviating a shortage of affordable housing.

Town planner Luke Sales gave council an overview of what the town would face once the B.C. Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act comes into effect May 1.

Currently, short-term rentals are not permitted in residential areas – but data presented to council by a Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association’s consultant recently showed approximately 116 short-term vacation rentals are operating in town. They include bed and breakfasts, rooms rented in resident’s homes, rentals of an entire house and hotel rental suites. They bring in tourism revenue of $11 million annually.

The legislation of Bill 35 aims to prevent STVRs in dwellings that could be used for long-term rental accommodation. The plan is to restrict short-term rentals to principal residences and either a secondary suite or an accessory dwelling unit.

Once the new law takes effect, the town’s STVRs will dramatically decrease to approximately 20, which falls under the category of ‘True Home Sharing’ models. Based on the revenue data of the town, 20 STVRs would generate almost $2 million annually in tourism revenue.

To mitigate the loss, town staff made recommendations to council that include bylaw amendments and a policy allowing temporary use permits for principal residence dwellings. As well, it was suggested amending the town’s licensing bylaw and ticketing bylaw to increase fines to deter unauthorized STVR businesses.

Council instead endorsed an alternative option not to authorize owner-occupant short-term vacation rentals until the town has conducted a review in 2027.

READ MORE: Parksville’s Resort Drive will be exempt from Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act

Coun. Scott Harrison was the only one who opposed the option. He asked if this means a ban on all STVRs in every property in town. Sales said yes but it will not include bed and breakfast operators and those properties located in commercial zones but are still subject to the principal residence requirements by the province.

Harrison suggested the town hold a public hearing first before making any decisions.

“If we do essentially (the) alternative one, then we’ve made that decision for the entire town,” said Harrison. “And I think we want to be careful with that because there’s pretty big tourism overlay and we might want to just have that conversation first.”

Coun. Anne Skipsey indicated that during the strategic planning process, a decision was made to review the short-term vacation rentals in 2027.

“That was because of all the delays because of the provincial legislation and all of the time that that was going to be taking up,” she commented. “My concern, addressing only some aspects of this really big and complex issue without doing a full and comprehensive review like what was proposed is really not my preference. That’s why I would support the motion… I think it deserves not just, you know, a piece here and a piece there but to look at it fully because it needs to be equitable.”

Coun. Petronella Vanvder Valk said while the situation will lead to loss in tourism revenue if suites aren’t rented out, it also creates a situation where people end up spending more in rental fees.

“Rental households are estimated to have paid $15.6 million more in rent between 2016 and 2021 as a direct result of commercial short-term rental activity in the broader Parksville Qualicum Beach corridor,” said Van der Valk. “So I think we have to look at… yes there may be some tourism monies that could potentially be lost but there’s also rental accommodation that’s costing people more to live here that won’t be available.”

Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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