If the proposed vacation rental regulations go forward as they currently read, Justin Cahill and Caitlin Shaw expect they will be selling their home.
Since 2016, the two have operated a short-term rental accommodation from the main portion of their home while they live in the secondary suite.
Though they have an application to have their property rezoned to legalize the operation, it has been in a stalemate while the city considers new regulations.
Under the current proposal, Cahill and Shaw would not be allowed to rent the main portion of their home.
“It’s kind of game over and we will be moving our investment elsewhere,” said Shaw, with a tremor in her voice, at the public hearing on Oct. 27.
They were two of many with their livelihoods at stake, who spoke or wrote into council about the proposed changes.
However, it was a divided room, with others voicing concerns about vacation rentals impacting long-term housing availability, creating unfair situations for hoteliers — who have to pay commercial taxes — and about the impacts vacation rentals may or may not have on the feel of a neighbourhood.
Tony Jeglum, a concerned citizen, said he doesn’t want to see any vacation rentals in homes in the city as there’s already a shortage of available long-term rentals.
The most common concerns were:
• regulating the rental to a secondary suite
• capping the number of business licenses available
• limiting the number of bedrooms to three and guests to six
• requiring an on-site operator
• restricting short term rentals to 120 nights a year
Secondary suite, bedroom and guest limit
The proposal to keep short-term rentals to a secondary suite was not in the original put forward by city staff, but rather added by council in June, prior to first reading.
Coun. Jackie Rhind said then she wanted to avoid situations where a long-term tenant lives in a basement suite while the rest of the home is used as a vacation rental when it could be filled by long-term renters. Rhind noted it’s easier to remove restrictions from a bylaw if they’re not working, but to add them is a process.
Attendees at the public hearing argued that taking secondary suites off the market takes away long-term opportunities for people to live on their own.
“A lot of these standalone vacation homes that people are talking about getting back into the long-term rental market, these homes are actually inaccessible for people to be able to even afford in a long-term market, anyway,” said Emily Revell, owner of Stay Revy, a property management company in town.
Others, including the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, were concerned that people looking for short-term rentals are often travelling in large groups and want to share accommodations, limiting to a suite limits the size of the group that can use the unit.
The amendments would see all residential-zoned properties eligible for a short-term rental business licence.
The limit on the number of business licences available was intended to mitigate the impacts the short-term rental market could have on the long-term market.
Development services director Marianne Wade suggested the cap be revisited annually.
Currently, there are 59 licences for secondary suites in Revelstoke, however, according to BC Assessment data, there are 129 single-family homes with unlicensed suites in the city.
“If every property requires a long term resident to reside on-site (be it the owner or a long term tenant) is that not providing housing? It is certainly doing more than many of the corporate hotels and businesses in town that require many staff to operate, but no staff housing!” wrote Christie Brugger, in a letter.
Many people, including the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, were in favour of having an on-site operator.
This suggestion was included by city staff as a way to ensure those staying in a vacation rental are good neighbours: there is someone on-site to remind them to keep the noise down.
However, property management companies such as Stay Revy and Hive & Co. Property Management requested that people have a choice as to how their property is managed.
“By providing Revelstoke with a property management service, we encourage a standard to be implemented within the property,” said Samantha Clark and Emma Sutton, of Hive & Co. in a letter. “While also allowing the guests to a certain level of privacy on their vacation. Property Management companies within Revelstoke offer a 24-7 call line if guests run into issues on their vacation.”
Under the current bylaw, vacation rentals may only be occupied for 120 nights a year. Though concerns about this were brought up by several people and businesses at the public hearing, changes to this bylaw were not up for debate at this point as they are part of a separate bylaw that will come forward for discussion at a later date.
Other concerns brought up by the public at the hearing included requests to reconsider the exclusion of the C2 (commercial fringe) zone and the Urban Reserve zone from the regulations.
At the moment, vacation rentals in commercial zones will be excluded from the proposed amendments, however, they will be included in the licence cap. Commercial Development zones such as the resort and Mackenzie Village, will not be included.
People were concerned about the proposed fines for those who are not in compliance, which has not been decided upon as well as the additional cost to taxpayers to pay for enforcement. However, the city is only allowed to charge on a cost-recovery basis, so the fines and business licence fees will be used to fund the bylaw officers. A business case is being created to look at those numbers.
Those who attended the meeting also made comments about the Airbnb representative being allowed to participate. Nathan Rotman, the manager for Airbnb Canada, spoke over the phone and a letter he submitted was read by a city staff person, as well.
According to the provincial guidelines: “At the public hearing, all persons who believe that their interest in property is affected by the proposed bylaw must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard.”
Council will discuss and possibly pass a third reading on Nov. 9.