Victoria Council approves new bylaw governing short-term vacation rentals

Victoria Council approves new bylaw governing short-term vacation rentals

Victoria Council approved a new bylaw governing short-term vacation rentals in the city by a vote of 4-1 on Thursday night.

Councillor Marianne Alto was the only dissenting vote, with three others including mayor Lisa Helps recusing themselves.

The new rules expand those eligible to offer short-term rentals of up to 2 bedrooms in their principle residences from only those in single family dwellings,  to all dwelling units, such as condos, duplexes, townhouses, secondary suites, and garden suites.

The changes also allow renters to operate short-term rentals in their primary residence, provided they have permission from their landlord.

It followed a long public hearing in which several people opposed to to the new rules, the licensing fees in particular, voiced their concerns.

The cost of a license will be $150 a year where the the short-term rental is offered in the operator’s principal residence, $1500 for others.

“I understand council’s objective of promoting affordable rental stock,” said Victoria resident Gordon Clarke.

“But this bylaw…throws the baby out with the bathwater.”

The new rules did have the backing of others including Tourism Victoria.

“Short-term vacation rentals have been operating outside the taxation and regulatory framework with which the rest of the tourism sector in Greater Victoria operates,” said Starr McMichael, Tourism Victoria Chair.

“They also create issues related to affordable housing in our community.”

The new rules will be enforced with fines of between $100.00 and $10,000.00 for every instance that an offence occurs or each day that it continues for those found guilty of an offence under the bylaw.

Council began clamping down on short-term vacation rentals in September, but a grandfather clause stipulates property owners who already legally rent out short term units as a business will be allowed to continue.

The City is concerned about the availability of housing for residents of Victoria, but also recognized that short term rentals can be a valuable part of the local economy.

The new bylaw will come into effect at the beginning of April.

Ben O'HaraBen O'Hara

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