By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: January 22, 2018
If you are offering short term rentals or planning to do so, be prepared to hear from District of Squamish. The local government is planning on bringing some regulation to the short term rentals in order to protect rental housing.
“The District is looking more broadly at short term rentals (e.g. Airbnb) to introduce conditions that continue to support the community’s critical need for rental stock through secondary suites,” said district spokesperson Christina Moore.
Last week it was announced the Airbnb will collect provincial sales taxes on all short-term rentals in B.C. The government cut a deal with the rental platform that would have the company remit PST and municipal and regional district tax.
As DOS reviews ‘potential policy development options’, it will do so while recognizing the appeal of Airbnb to both residents with extra rooms in their homes, and travellers who seek out the Airbnb “in-home”-type experience, Moore added.
“The cost of rent in Squamish is very high and wages have not kept up in pace with the increase of housing and living costs over the year. We use Airbnb to generate a little bit more income to decrease our financial burden.”
In fact, under the local zoning bylaws, secondary suites are not permitted to allow on short-term rentals, including Airbnb. Short term rentals are only allowed within a primary residence, and only under the conditions of a Bed and Breakfast permitted use and associated Business Licence.
As of now, residents who rent their secondary suites through Airbnb are in contravention of the Zoning Bylaw, Moore said. Recently the council clarified that by adding a clear definition of short-term rental, which it defines as the use of a dwelling unit, or any portion of it, as a rental unit for a period of less than 30 days.
“It supports the District’s ongoing efforts to increase the availability of rental stock in the community that is available to tenants and local workers looking for rental housing on a long-term basis,” Moore said
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one person who rents out a portion of his basement suite on Airbnb, says the short term rentals give him a flexibility on keeping the space for himself when friends or family are in town.
“We rent out spare room occasionally on Airbnb. The cost of rent in Squamish is very high and wages have not kept up in pace with the increase of housing and living costs over the year. We use Airbnb to generate a little bit more income to decrease our financial burden,” he said.
He doesn’t agree, however, with absentee landlords renting their homes on Airbnb, which can increase rent and decrease the available housing stock, he added.
Squamish local Toby Foord-Kelcey says it’s the district’s conjecture that landlords are now favouring short-term rentals over long-term rentals.
“The theory also assumes that there is somehow inexhaustible demand for short-term rental space. My impression is that in Squamish right now we do have strong demand for short-term rentals, outside the classic tourist season, because so many contractors are passing through town to do specific jobs on the numerous housing developments,” he said.
“In my opinion, if DoS introduce regulation to stifle the short-term rental market, any increase in long-term rental supply will be insignificant. Meanwhile reducing short-term supply will slow the local economy as contractors decide it is to much trouble to accept work here.”
There are roughly 356 Squamish properties listed on the Airbnb, staff told council recently.