Listing for a whole suite in Fairfield on AirBnB as of Friday morning. (Screenshot)

EDITORIAL: Legal battle looming over vacation rentals

Owners of properties used for short-term rentals (STR), as well as companies that manage those properties, are getting ready to fight the City of Victoria’s proposed regulations. It’s a battle the City likely saw coming.

We’re not surprised that some residents, fighting for the right to earn additional income on revenue properties, are up in arms at the City choosing to regulate the industry.

We’ve heard from owners, including those operating legal STRs, that they want the City to use hard data to prove the industry is having a detrimental effect on the residential rental market, and to make sure regulations are fair.

Regulating this industry is still a relatively new science, and although there are lessons to learn from Vancouver, Whistler and cities south of the border, we should know what is happening here before making drastic changes.

Which is why we’re happy the City is contracting an independent company to collect data on Victoria’s vacation rental industry.

Those details are not known, but the issues facing Victoria are common in North America. Governments are struggling to balance peoples’ property rights with the impact on neighbours, in terms of affordability and quality of life. For tourist destinations like Victoria, these issues can be even more pronounced.

Owners of these properties may find the business licence fees too high, or regulations too tight to continue business, but they are still left with reasonable options.

Victoria isn’t going to lose its tourism-appeal overnight. If property owners find the situation untenable, they can always go back to renting to long-term tenants, and with such a low vacancy rate, they’re sure to find tenants lining up.

Buyers, too, will be quick to snatch up the homes and condos whose owners can’t or won’t continue in the short-term rental business. That’s what the City’s initial goal was, anyway, to open up the housing market, and that could be the result.

However, we’re glad the City is taking a closer look at the situation so councillors can make an informed decision.

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