Sechelt, BC decides to severely restrict short-term rentals, raising tourism concerns


The largest municipality on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is set to severely restrict short-term rentals, raising concerns in the region’s tourism sector.

The new regulations, which take effect in January, were a response to community complaints about noise, parking and party houses, according to Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers.

“It impacts the quality of the neighborhood. It changes how they feel, their safety and all that kind of stuff,” she said, referring to a neighborhood where residents reported three problematic properties.

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The new rules will not affect short-term rentals involving a suite or secondary cabin in which the primary resident lives on-site.

However, the new regulations will cap “commercial” rentals, where the entire property is rented, to just 15 in the community.

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This is a serious concern, according to Annie Wise, executive director of Sunshine Coast Tourism.

Wise said the two hotels in Sechelt had just 71 rooms between them and businesses ranging from kayak rentals to restaurants feared they would see a major drop in customers.

“You are looking at a reduction of around 75% in tourist accommodation in Sechelt, and that will have a significant impact on our visitor economy,” she said.

“There are so many businesses that depend on these visitors year-round, and especially in the winter, to support their ongoing business operations.”

Wise said tourism remains the area’s biggest employer, and the sector has been served by cabins and rental cabins for decades, long before services like AirBnb came onto the scene.

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Sechelt’s decision to restrict short-term rentals follows a similar move in neighboring Gibsons.

Earlier this summer, this community announced plans to completely eliminate short-term rentals in properties where the primary resident does not live for the next five years.

While Sechelt’s short-term rental operators were already required to obtain a business license, due to the unregulated nature of the industry, Siegers said the district doesn’t have a clear idea of ​​how many businesses already in activity.

She said starting with a small number of approved business units would allow the municipality to have a clear picture of what is happening and work from there, while addressing community concerns.

“Some people say we have 50 – we don’t know,” she said.

“(In January) we will have a new council in place. Then if at that time the board wants to change that number, they can go ahead and do that.

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Gary Bearchell, a short-term rental operator and member of the Sunshine Coast Tourism Board, said the district’s numbers don’t add up.

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He operates a cabin on the property where he lives, which would not be affected by the new regulations, as well as two full residence rentals on neighboring properties which are expected to compete for one of 15 licenses.

“I think they should have slowed everything down and done more studies, they don’t have the numbers – they even admitted it themselves, they think there are around 50 but we think that’ there’s maybe double that,” he told Global News. .

“Capping it at 15 even to start with is far too difficult – I don’t understand how they’re even going to decide who gets them… who’s got, who’s have-not?”

Bearchell acknowledged that party house complaints are a “valid concern,” but said the district already has the tools to deal with them under existing noise and parking regulations.

He argued that the district should have started by capping rental licenses to the number of existing properties and increasing licensing fees to hire another enforcement officer to fix any issues.

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He said the region’s tourism industry needs the available rental units which are all booked up during peak season, and many of which are also full during the winter.

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“It’s basically going to make things go underground for a lot of people, and they’ll try anyway,” he said. “Maybe they’ll just pay the fines or find some other way around it… That’s another factor, it won’t solve anything with these party houses.”

Darnelda acknowledged that the community is facing a shortage of rental housing and that Sechelt would benefit from more hotels.

But she said the district has heard from hoteliers that they aren’t interested in anything new because they don’t operate on equal footing with services like AirBnb.

For now, she said the council was acting in response to what it had heard from residents.

“It’s more the fit community, that’s what the community said, they want their communities back, they want their neighborhoods back,” she said.

“If we were to follow what the majority of the community said, we wouldn’t have any, we wouldn’t have second homes for rent. Because that’s what the community asked for.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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