District of Squamish flagged 98 properties for enforcement and sent 84 warning letters to those operating short-term rentals in the District. Squamish Council adopted the short-term rental (STR) bylaw in November 2020, restricting short-term rentals to the principal residence only.
However, it started enforcement against non-compliant operators only in April 2021. So far, 89 properties have come into compliance, the District says, which happens through voluntary closure, delisting rental ads, converting the listing to a minimum requirement of 30 or more days, or by obtaining an STR business licence.
District staff still can’t say conclusively if the restrictions had the desired effect: An increase in long-term rentals in the community.
However, the staff says that the decrease in the number of available STRs from 530 in 2019 to 150 units in 2021 suggests that some units would have moved to long-term rentals.
“Staff do not know how many of these suites have returned to the long-term rental market without directly surveying operators and owners, but it is likely that at least some would go into long-term rental given some owners’ need to generate income to service their mortgages and other expenses,” notes a staff report to the Council.
Staff also says it is very challenging to isolate the impact of STR regulations on the long-term market as other factors such as the pandemic, tourism demand, population growth, migration, and other housing markets might all influence the long-term rental market.
The staff further says that they were not able to identify any other city or municipality that has been successful in definitively enumerating the number of STR units returned to the long-term rental market as a result of regulating STRs, but adds that it is highly likely that some of the units would have gone into the long-term rental market.
“Staff were not able to identify any other city or municipality that has been successful in definitively enumerating the number of STR units returned to the long-term rental market as a result of regulating STRs, but it is highly likely that at least some of the delisted/removed STR units would have gone into the long-term rental market,” the report notes.
The staff is recommending that the District continue with the current regulations to limit STR activity to principal residences only.
That is the wrong approach, say Tourism Squamish and the Squamish Chamber of Commerce. Lesley Weeks, the executive director of Tourism Squamish, and Louise Walker, the executive director of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, have written a joint letter to the District asking it to remove the restrictions.