District of Tofino votes to restrict short-term rentals starting Nov. 1

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Tofino is pictured.

The District of Tofino has decided to opt-in to B.C.’s new short-term accommodations act despite not being required to do so.

At a meeting Tuesday, Tofino council voted to ask the province to restrict short-term rentals (STRs), like Airbnbs, in the municipality. Two councillors voted ‘no,’ but four were in favour of implementing the act that was created to address a lack of rental housing.

Council requests “that the District of Tofino be removed from the exempt land list in the Short Term Rental Accommodations Regulation and opt-in to the principal residence requirement,” reads the motion.

The new legislation was announced last fall in an effort to broadly regulate STRs in B.C., the province says.

It adds that the Provincial Principal Residence Requirement limits short-term rentals to the host’s principal residence, plus one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit on the property.

Resort communities and municipalities with less than 10,000 residents, like Tofino, were exempt from the legislation but can choose to opt-in by March 31, 2024.

In Tofino, the changes would take effect on Nov. 1 of this year, “providing hosts adequate notice to comply,” according to the district in a report.

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A Tofino resident is concerned about the new rule, telling CHEK News Wednesday that more than 40 units in two local buildings will be removed from the STR market.

But the district’s mayor noted that long-term rental housing is much needed.

“Like much of the province, our community is facing significant housing challenges. Affordable long-term housing continues to be a top priority for this Council,” Mayor Dan Law said last October.

“B.C.’s recently tabled Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act marks a significant step towards achieving our shared goal of sustainable housing solutions.”

He tells CHEK News that only about 15 per cent of all units in Tofino are STRs, and the new laws will only affect about two per cent of those.

The district says it provided a public consultation phase ahead of the vote, which ran between Jan. 26 and Feb. 26 and included community roundtables and a town hall.

It says many respondents expressed how this would “positively impact the fabric of the community,” while others “emphasized the pressing need for more housing in Tofino, indicating a recognition of the housing crisis in the area.”

However, it says others in the community were opposed, voicing “a strong emphasis on concerns for those who have invested under current zoning regulations and uncertainty about affected units becoming long-term housing.”

READ ALSO: Time’s up for some short-term rentals in B.C., as new housing rules transform scene

Along with Tofino, Ucluelet is another resort community on the Island. There are 14 of these communities throughout B.C.

The new act comes into effect on May 1 for municipalities that don’t fit the population or resort community expectations. Victoria council was looking to ask the province to delay the STR rules until after the tourism season, while Parksville was hoping for exceptions as well.

Last October, when the legislation was first announced, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said there had been an “explosion” of STRs in the province.

“Vacancy rates across the province are extremely low. People are struggling to find homes that they can afford, and the rapid increase in short-term rentals is making the problem worse,” he said.

According to the province, the new act will return STR units to the long-term housing market. It says the maximum municipal ticketing fine has increased to $3,000 per infraction, per day.

Tofino’s motion now goes to the housing minister for approval.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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