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Housing minister balks at Victoria mayor’s push for short-term rental rule delay

Housing needed right away, Ravi Kahlon says amid call to spare tourism season from legislation
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Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto wants to see a delay in the province’s short-term rental legislation. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C.’s housing minister seemed unpersuaded on Wednesday (March 13) of an effort to delay the short-term rental crackdown in the capital city until after the peak tourism season.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto is bringing a motion forward on Thursday asking the province to delay the implementation Bill 35 to Nov. 1. That legislation comes into effect on May 1 and aims to stem the growing wave of homes being used as short-term rentals, through sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

While Alto stood, literally and figuratively, with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon as the short-term rental measures were announced last fall, Victoria council has been lobbied by property owners ever since to push against and water down the new rules.

When asked about Alto’s motion on Wednesday, Kahlon said people are struggling to access housing in Victoria right now.

Most people would ask why the province has taken so long to initiate the new regulations, the minister added, noting the May 1 date looked to give owners time to move their property into the long-term market or sell them.

“People are struggling and we need to make sure that housing is available for people right away in our communities,” Kahlon said.

“We desperately need to provide more housing opportunities so we can attract the health-care workers, the teachers, the firefighters that we all need in our communities.”

While Victoria already had a short-term rental bylaw, the provincial legislation impacts around 1,600 legal non-conforming units in the city. Legal non-conforming units are mainly condos in buildings that had grandfathered-in exemptions from the bylaw – allowing them to enter the short-term market at any time unless the province amended its legislation.

Last December, Victoria council unanimously voted to cancel a planned $1,000-hike that non-principal short-term rental operators – ones who don’t live in the unit they’re listing – would’ve paid for their annual licence fee. Several councillors said at the time that the move would be fair as operators would only be in business for four months this year.

Bill 35 will bar non-principal operators in Victoria as it limits short-term rentals to principal residences and one additional unit per property. At least 42 per cent of the licences are held by operators who don’t live in Victoria, according to the city.

When asked about potential impacts to tourism in the capital as people are pushed to use traditional stays like hotels, Kahlon countered that the provincial legislation merely reinforced Victoria’s existing bylaw.

Alto’s motion, which is co-sponsored by Coun. Stephen Hammond, states the May 1 date will adversely affect STR hosts and says local accommodations often exceed supply during the tourism “high season.”

After the legislation was announced, Destination Greater Victoria told Black Press Media it was pleased with the move as multiple new hotels are in the works. The tourism agency said Wednesday it could not provide comment as its CEO was out town.

“The accommodation sector can manage the volume of visitors coming to the region without short-term rentals,” Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey said in an October 2023 statement. “Commercial transient accommodation is for travellers. Housing is for homes.”

Previous discussions on the short-term rental legislation in Victoria saw some councillors saying operators were having their businesses ripped out from under them, while others said those people chose to invest in a highly volatile market that’s subject to regulation from various levels of government.

– With a report from Wolfgang Depner

READ: Victoria council reverses planned fee hike on short-term rental operators

READ: Limited authority irks Victoria as short-term rentals snatch up housing

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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