City moves to regulate short-term vacation rentals

The City of Victoria is moving towards regulating vacation rentals such as Airbnbs.

The City of Victoria is moving towards regulating vacation rentals such as Airbnbs.

Council unanimously voted to direct staff to develop options for policy guidelines and regulations of short-term vacation rentals during a meeting last week.

According to a staff report, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of short-term vacation rental units because addresses and contact information are often concealed in Internet listings. But staff estimate there are between 200 and 300 short-term vacation rental units in the city, a majority of which are located in the downtown core and adjacent portions of Fairfield and James Bay.

With Victoria’s vacancy rate sitting at virtually zero per cent, there is concern that landlords are choosing short-term visitors over long-term leases.

Coun. Pam Madoff said she’s heard from a number of people who have been affected by spaces being used as Airbnbs and condos that have been specifically purchased to be used as Airbnbs.

“I certainly see it as a significant issue, especially if we have a zero per cent vacancy rate basically,” she said, adding phase two of the Hudson Walk development, which has 160 rental units, had about 800 to 1,000 people looking for rental accommodations.

“We’re not talking about the hard to house, we’re talking about a genuine crisis in housing affordability in the City of Victoria and this is the right way to go with the lens on housing stock in the city.”

However, the report points out that if many vacation rental units made their way back into the market, the vacancy rate would increase to between 1.2 and 1.7 per cent.

Tourism Victoria has also expressed concern over short-term vacation rentals, about the lack of affordable housing for workers and how it’s not a level playing frield.

Vacation rentals are not subjected to the same 16.5 sales tax that commercial accommodations, such as hotels, have to pay.

“I think it’s clear we need to move forward with regulating vacation rentals. We’re not trying to get rid of vacation rentals in total, what we’re saying is we need to move forward to ensure that units of housing stock aren’t being taken out of the market to providing short-term vacation rentals in an unregulated manner,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Staff said it would be difficult to enforce bylaws and policies since it would involve identifying the property, contacting the absentee property owner, and gathering sufficient evidence to prove whether a monetary transaction was involved.

A draft policy will come to council in September.