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Columbia Shuswap waits for more information on short-term rentals

Regional District had a meeting on March 21
The provincial government introduced legislation to limit short-term rentals in many cities in British Columbia in an effort to put thousands of units back into the long-term rental pool, with the changes coming into effect in May. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

At the March 21 board meeting in Salmon Arm, Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors wrestled with new provincial legislation intended to create more long-term rental opportunities, but so far lacks clear direction.

Throughout 2023, the provincial government introduced new legislation and regulations to encourage owners of residential properties currently being used as short-term rentals (STR) to return them to the long- term rental market.

Starting May 1, 2024, the province will implement a principal residence requirement that limits short-term rentals to the host’s principal residence plus one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit. Currently, all Electoral Areas are exempt from this requirement, but local governments, including the CSRD, can request to opt-in.

The province has now provided local governments with some additional policy guidance regarding implementation of the new legislation, as well as local government’s role in that process. However, Victoria has yet to provide specific details pertaining to a new provincial STR registry anticipated to go-live late 2024 or early 2025. But the registry application procedures required to be followed by affected landowners and local governments, has also yet to be provided.

To ensure compliance, the province will also be creating a STR Compliance and Enforcement unit. But Christie pointed out, the CSRD has no idea if the regional district will be called on to play a role in enforcement.

“Will bylaw enforcement have to come from CSRD as they were doing during COVID to enforce regulations,” he asked, noting there will be a lot of data sharing between the province and local governments. “If we receive non compliant reports is it incumbent on us to share it with the province?“

Christie asked directors to discuss the optional Short Term Rental Principal Residence Requirement and suggested the CSRD not opt-in to that regulation until further information and additional regulation is provided as to how the province will actually implement these regulations and what their impacts may be.

Christie’s report sparked several comments and questions.

In response to a question by Board Chair Kevin Flynn, Christie responded that all resort municipalities such as Revelstoke are exempt, but can opt in if they want.

Electoral Area B Rural Revelstoke Director David Brooks-Hill said it would be very complicated if the legislation was implemented in Area B but not Revelstoke.

“There is so much to learn, and we will not be opting in,” he said, pointing out that access to affordable housing in his area is terrible. “There are so many properties owned here where people don’t live here. To make more places available to rent would be good for us.”

Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz says council has chosen to wait until to October before changing anything.

“The devil is in the details and we don’t know what they are,” he said. “I suggest CSRD bring in business licences for short-term rentals. I think we need to cool our jets right now.”

Electoral Area A Rural Golden Director Karen Cathcart asked if her area could be zoned for short-term rentals.

In response, Christie said a new zoning bylaw would have to be created and the proper way to do that would be through an official community plan (OCP), which provides strategic land use direction. The process, he said could become a multi-year project.

Cathcart noted there has been a 100 per cent increase in short-term rentals in Area A over the past few years, and asked if the issue could be addressed by issuing business licences.

Christie explained that in order to do that CSRD would have to create a new function whose cost would depend on who was participating, staffing, planning as well as building bylaws and more.

At the March 21 meeting, directors were asked to provide direction on having staff prepare temporary use permit (TUP) amendments in the South Shuswap Official Community Plan. Area C Director Marty Gibbons supported the recommendation, calling a bandaid solution that would buy some time. But Melnychuk, Brooks-Hill, Sicamous Mayor Colleen Anderson and Golden Mayor Ron Oszust were opposed to the temporary use permit approach.

In the meantime, staff will prepare an update report to the board this fall as additional information from the province is released, including possible departmental workplan and budget impacts for 2025, and what additional decision points may be necessary or desired to address the provincial STR regulations.

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