BC United calls for changes to proposed crackdown on short-term rentals

Click to play video: 'BC United proposes amendments to Short-Term Rental Act'
BC United proposes amendments to Short-Term Rental Act
Just days after the new legislation was brought in, BC United is proposing amendments to the province's Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act. Keith Baldrey reports. – Oct 24, 2023

British Columbia’s official Opposition is proposing a suite of amendments to the NDP’s proposed legislation to crack down on short-term rentals, warning the plan could result in a variety of unintended consequences.

The governing New Democrats unveiled their legislation targeting platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and Expedia last week.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government to crack down on short-term rentals'
B.C. government to crack down on short-term rentals

Under the proposed rules, British Columbians would only be able to rent out their primary residence and one additional secondary suite to people staying for fewer than 90 days. Communities with populations under 10,000 people would be exempted.

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BC United housing critic Karin Kirkpatrick said that while action on short-term rentals is needed, the NDP’s plan needs some “common sense” changes.

BC United is proposing several key changes to the rules, including changing the definition of short-term rental to 30 days, rather than the NDP’s 90 days.

It would also allow short-term rentals if they are related to the provision or receipt of medical services.

“We’ve heard from a number of people in different sectors and industry, doctors, nurses, students who are actually using this on a consistent basis to be able to travel and serve different communities in B.C. and this is really going to restrict their ability to do that,” Kirkpatrick said Tuesday.

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She added that other industries like the film and television production sector need access to short-term accommodations, and would be penalized by the 90-day definition.

BC United also wants to see an exemption added to allow for “designated major event accommodation areas.”

Kirkpatrick said that change is needed given Metro Vancouver’s critical shortage of hotel spaces, and in view of B.C. planning to hold major international events like the FIFA 2026 Men’s World Cup.

Click to play video: 'The potential impact on tourism with new short term rental rules being announced in B.C.'
The potential impact on tourism with new short term rental rules being announced in B.C.

“There are going to be about 269,000 people coming to B.C. for that event, and most of those will be outside of Canada, outside of the U.S. We have about 23,000 hotel spaces in the Lower Mainland,” she said.

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“We’ve got to anticipate that we may not be a place that people come anymore because of the issue of not being able to have accommodation.”

The BC United proposed amendments would further allow people to rent out vacation properties that aren’t a principal residence but aren’t already occupied year-round.

Kirkpatrick acknowledged that many such properties would already be exempt if they were in communities with fewer than 10,000 residents, but argued that the law as written would harm other property owners who don’t plan to rent out their vacation cabins.

She further raised concerns about how the province plans to enforce its new rules, suggesting there is a lack of clarity and that the responsibility could be downloaded to municipalities.

Click to play video: 'New study renews debate around tightening the laws around short-term rentals'
New study renews debate around tightening the laws around short-term rentals

B.C. Premier David Eby accused the opposition of opposing the planned crackdown and seeking to add “a whole bunch of exemptions in for investors.”

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He said housing in the province’s major cities needs to be available for people who live and work in the province, providing services ranging from retail to health care.

“I do not think the way forward is to turn this legislation into Swiss cheese, to create a bunch of loopholes that people who are motivated by profit (can) drive a freight train though,” he said.

“We have to be clear, we have to be unambiguous, the rules have to be absolute and we have to set a floor to protect British Columbians, that’s what it’s all about.”

But Kirkpatrick said the province waited too long to act on regulating the short-term rental sector, and failed to pair action with moves to reinvigorate the under-served hotel industry.

“Now they are taking extreme measures instead of working with some of the short-term rental platforms in the past,” she said.

Kirkpatrick said BC United is still reviewing the legislation and hasn’t committed to whether it will support it or not, and wants to see its concerns addressed.

The proposed legislation is currently at the committee stage at the B.C. legislature, where MLAs from government and opposition have the opportunity to review it and make changes.

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