Sidney councillors Monday will debate a proposal to prohibit all short-term rentals anywhere in Sidney to help the local tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coun. Peter Wainwright raised the proposal last council meeting on April 27 in a notice of motion, whose preamble says additional competition from short-term rentals like Airbnb “may slow the recovery of our hotels and commercial lodging operators” on the premise that the “recovery” of the local tourism is “expected to be slower than most other sectors” of Sidney’s economy.
Wainwright’s notice of motion says that short-term rentals such as Airbnb “pose significant competition for hotels and commercial lodging operators in Sidney” that do not pay commercial property taxes and invest “significantly less” capital. They also “provide less employment opportunities, and are not subject to the same rules and responsibilities.”
It is not clear how many short-term rentals currently operate in Sidney. A search for Sidney, BC on Airbnb for the period May 10 to May 13 brought up 300+ possible offers, with the proviso that not all locations will be within Sidney’s municipal boundaries, with the actual number within Sidney’s boundaries likely far below the initial search results and therefore assessable.
Should Wainwright’s notice of motion (as currently worded) receive support from his colleagues, staff would bring back an amendment to Sidney’s zoning bylaw for consideration by councillors no later than Aug. 31, 2020.
The question of allowing short-term rentals has long vexed municipal governments across Canada, including British Columbia and the Greater Victoria region.
Housing advocates have accused commercial short-term rental platforms generally and Airbnb specifically of compounding affordable housing shortages in various communities including the City of Victoria. Commercial hotel operators, meanwhile, naturally see short-term rental platforms as competitors, drawing away business through lower rates and greater flexibility.
Efforts to regulate the short-term rental industry on both the municipal and provincial level have gained strength in recent years, with Airbnb now paying municipal and provincial taxes.
The City of Victoria, for example, collected almost $530,000 in business license fees from interested owners of homes, who want to convert their residences in short-term accommodations during the first six month following passage of new licensing requirements. That municipality also declared parts of its downtown off-limits to short-term vacation rentals and has pursued disciplinary actions against violators of its new licensing requirements.
But the experience of Victoria has also shown that enforcement remains an issue. According to published report, almost half of Airbnbs in Victoria are believed to be operating illegally.
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