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B.C.’s new short-term rental regulations approved after colourful debate

Law limiting short-term rentals in some - but not all - B.C. communities passes

Legislation restricting short-term rentals in British Columbia passed Thursday (Oct. 26), but not before days of discussion that added new terms such as ‘Condo King’ and ‘Million Dollar Mike’ to B.C.’s political vocabulary.

Forty-nine New Democrats and the two BC Greens voted in favour of the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act. Twenty-two members of the BC United Caucus and Conservative Party of B.C. House Leader Bruce Banman voted against it.

The legislation tabled Oct. 15 then received royal assent from Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin, but key parts of it won’t come into effect until May 1, 2024.

The legislation defines short-term rentals as any accommodation provided to the public for less than 90 consecutive days; establishes registries for both hosts and platforms like Airbnb, and an enforcement unit; toughens penalties for violators; and limits short-term rentals to principal residences and one additional unit per property. Resort communities, electoral areas and municipalities under 10,000 not located within 15 kilometres of municipalities above 10,000 are exempt.

Both supporters and critics have called the legislation significant, even sweeping.

Consider the Okanagan, a growing region struggling with housing affordability, but also dependent on tourism.

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas praised the legislation.

“These proposed changes lay a strong foundation for municipalities to build upon through our own bylaws and regulations, so that current and future residents will be able to quickly access more long-term rentals and housing solutions,” he said in a release. “(We) hear regularly from our tourism industry of the challenge their staff have in finding housing and this will go a long way to change that situation, and many similar housing challenges in our community.”

RELATED: Eby calls charges of hypocrisy in condo deal a ‘manufactured scandal’

RELATED: Province to limit short-term rentals in some B.C. communities, but not all

Reactions in neighbouring Vernon differ.

Mayor Victor Cumming said the municipality is happy to participate but warned against a “significant number” unintended consequences. Couns. Brian Quiring and Teresa Durning were less diplomatic. “It’s going to absolutely hammer tourism,” Quiring said. Durning added reducing short-term rentals would be “detrimental to tourism for us.”

These debates also played out in the legislature. BC United unsuccessfully tried to amend the legislation by redefining short-term rentals to any accommodation of less than 30 days as well as create exemptions for medical travel and special events. BC United also proposed property owners be allowed to operate a short-term rental on one additional property, unless than they already offer a secondary suite.

BC United housing critic Karin Kirkpatrick said the legislation as written would hurt students, nurses and others travelling for work such as film industry professionals. She said B.C. also lacks enough hotel rooms for major events like FIFA 2026 World Cup.

BC United also accused Premier David Eby of hypocrisy, saying he benefited from language marketing his former Victoria condo as a short-term rental when he sold it. Kelowna-area MLA Renee Merrifield calling Eby a ‘condo king.’ Eby said he never marketed the condo as a short-term rental, noting the condo, which was his residence, was sold to help pay for his wife’s studies.

“It’s a manufactured scandal,” Eby said.

New Democrats including Eby, pointed out the next day that BC United’s Mike de Jong has bought and sold seven separate properties, pocketing $1.18 million. In 2021 and 2022 alone, de Jong sold five properties, making over $900,000 in profit, according to a release, prompting the moniker ‘Million Dollar Mike.’

New Democrat Mable Elmore said it is no wonder BC United under Kevin Falcon opposes the government’s agenda.

“Falcon is against the speculation and vacancy tax, the flipping tax and the new rules for short term rentals,” she said. “Once again, he’s putting investors and speculators who are profiting off the housing market — including his own MLAs — ahead of British Columbians trying to afford a place to live.”

When asked why de Jong’s actions were less egregious, Falcon said de Jong had owned these units for 20 to 30 years and rented them before selling them on that basis.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said he appreciates that in the “heat of the battle” people will say different things, but his focus lies on creating more housing, adding it is fair for media to ask questions about who owns what.

-with files from Jennifer Smith


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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