Gabriola’s local governments are exploring what the new provincial short-term rental legislative changes mean for the island.
The B.C. government’s Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act received royal assent Oct. 26. Currently, there are approximately 28,000 daily active short-term rental listings in B.C., a 20 per cent increase from a year ago, and more than 16,000 entire homes are listed as short-term rentals for the majority of a calendar year, the government says, which is constricting the availability of long-term accommodations throughout the province.
While some regulations included in the suite of changes, such as only allowing short-term rentals in B.C. to be offered in principal residences, automatically apply in municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more, regional districts and municipalities under 10,000 people can opt in.
The B.C. government is also empowering regional districts with the ability to issue business licences for short-term rentals. Regional districts are required to request authority from the province to issue business licences. The announcement also said the Local Government Act will be amended to increase the maximum fine regional districts can set for prosecutions of bylaw offences from $2,000 to up to a maximum of $50,000, in line with the amount already available to municipalities.
Regional District of Nanaimo staff said it is too early to provide comment on how the new changes might impact the regional district and will look to the board of directors for direction on if it wants to utilize the new tools available.
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The Islands Trust said it is currently assessing how the legislative changes will be implemented in the Islands Trust area, which overlaps seven regional districts. “Staff have sought more clarity from the province about the opting in process and to the principal resident requirements as they relate to the Islands Trust areas,” Morgana van Niekerk, Islands Trust communications specialist, said.
The legislative changes also include removing legacy protections for non-conforming use of property for short term rentals by May 2024. Islands Trust said this change will support bylaw and compliance efforts in the areas where local trust committees “have requested proactive bylaw enforcement against unpermitted short-term rentals.”
In recent years, Islands Trust was part of a Joint UBCM-Province Advisory Group on Short-term Rentals. The group issued a report in 2021; some recommendations in it overlap the changes announced by the provincial government this October. They included allowing regional districts to implement business licensing by approval of regional district boards and increasing allowable fines.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder