Pushback in Parksville over B.C.’s incoming short-term rental rules

Click to play video: 'Pushback over B.C. short-term rental rules'
Pushback over B.C. short-term rental rules
There's growing pushback against B.C's new short-term rental rules from communities like Parksville, which depend heavily on vacationers to fuel the local economy. Richard Zussman reports – Mar 6, 2024

British Columbia’s incoming legislation regulating short-term rentals (STRs) is generating pushback in Parksville, where some locals say it unfairly affects a popular resort community.

Under the new rules, short-term rentals will only be permitted in most cities of over 10,000 if they’re in someone’s principal residence starting in May.

Click to play video: 'Short-term rental rule concerns for B.C. property owners'
Short-term rental rule concerns for B.C. property owners

Those changes would have a major impact on an area of Parksville known as Resort Drive, which the city’s mayor says is home to nearly 400 properties and accounts for more than 40 per cent of the city’s tourist accommodation.

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“This is purpose-built tourism accommodation that was built in this area, started about 20 years ago, for the idea of increasing the tourism economy to a 12-month pattern instead of a typical four-month summer pattern,” Mayor Doug O’Brien told Global News.

“It’s blossomed into a huge economic driver for the city of Parksville, not only for the tourism but also all the service industries that support that industry.”

O’Brien said the community is supportive of the province’s legislation as it applies to regular housing, but argued the Resort Drive properties weren’t meant as and aren’t suitable for long-term housing.

The province’s legislation includes exemptions for certain properties, including strata-titled hotels and motels, time-share properties and properties with fractional ownership. Cities with populations over 10,000 can also apply for exemptions if they have a vacancy rate above 3 per cent.

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Tara Ryder, general manager of the Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort and chair of Parksville-Qualicum Tourism, said most owners support the STR legislation but feel the government needs to “fine-tune it.”

“Do we need more housing for workers here in Parksville? Absolutely we do, but we are building lots of housing,” she said.

“This new law should be geared towards people who have purchased all of the available homes and are now using them as rental vacation homes.”

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Click to play video: 'Kelowna condo owner concerned over impacts of B.C.’s short-term rental market crackdown'
Kelowna condo owner concerned over impacts of B.C.’s short-term rental market crackdown

Ryder said the Resort Drive owners bought the properties with the understanding they would be vacation rentals and have secured business licences to operate them that way. Many, she said, use the properties as a family vacation spot in the summer and rent them out to tourists for the rest of the year.

Shutting the district down, she said, would have serious consequences for the local tourism economy.

“This is a vacation destination, as much as they maybe say we’re not, we are,” she said.

“Parksville businesses, their longevity is very short-lived, they rely on the tourists to keep them thriving.”

BC United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said the situation in Parksville underscored problems with the government’s approach to short-term rentals.

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“They bring in these changes, they are very poorly thought out,” he said.

“I think this government will be forced into providing exemptions, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. It’s just unfortunate they’re always having to come in and fix their problems later that they have created by not being thoughtful about the process.”

Click to play video: 'More concerns about short term rental ban'
More concerns about short term rental ban

In a Thursday interview, B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon was cool to the prospect of any special exemptions for the Resort Drive area.

“We made it clear when we brought the legislation in that we were prioritizing any home that was available to the people of the community,” Kahlon said.

“Parksville has a vacancy rate of 1.2 per cent. We have people in that community that are struggling to find housing, they can’t attract health-care workers, they can’t attract other important workers in their community, and we want to try to prioritize any housing that is available outside of the strata hotels.”

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The city’s mayor, however, remains hopeful and says he’s still in contact with the province.

“Please consider the uniqueness of this and the impact it would have on Parksville, on the tourism economy, for the people that have invested in these,” O’Brien said.

“They were never built for long-term rental.”

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