Provincial: Local governments push for provincial regulation for short-term accommodations industry

UBCM has made requests to the province to establish a regulatory framework for the short-term accommodations industry, among other measures suggested to mitigate the effects of the ongoing short-term rental issue.

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Illegal vacation rentals, which have proliferated after a wave of digital tools such as Airbnb enabled easier online connections. Photo: Pixabay

Short-term rentals remain an issue of constant concern here in Revelstoke, where long-term housing is difficult to come by and affordable housing nearly impossible. The local bylaw regulating short-term rentals is currently in the process of being revamped and is up for further council consideration at its Nov. 9 meeting, following a recent public hearing.

And Revelstoke isn’t the only community in the province grappling with the effects and logistics of the issue. 

The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) has made requests to the province to establish a regulatory framework for the short-term accommodations industry, similar to those in place for ride-hailing and other regulated industries.

While local governments in B.C. have tools to regulate short-term rentals for vacationers and others, most lack the capacity to enforce them. This has been the issue in Revelstoke as well, where many vacation rentals are not regulated and are only enforced on a complaints basis. Part of the discussions around illegal short-term housing in Revelstoke has been the issue of enforcement.

​​City staff have proposed making changes to the ticketing system in Revelstoke, including increasing fines for illegal rentals to $1,000 per day. The city will need to make the case that its new system will work since the number of illegal rentals has only continued to grow. It’s estimated that there are 328 short-term rentals in single-family residences in the town alone, including legal and illegal ones.

Revelstoke’s lack of regulation and enforcement of short-term rentals has contributed to housing price inflation in Revelstoke, a community where middle-class home ownership dreams have all but evaporated for the younger generations.

In a release, the UBCM details that the ever-expanding online accommodation bookings industry has reduced long-term rental housing capacity at a time when housing availability and costs are already under pressure. At the same time, a property’s earning potential from short-term rental use leads to higher prices in the market than local incomes can support. 

They go on to point out as well that local governments are unable to obtain complete and accurate data needed to understand exactly what is happening with short-term rentals in their own community.

At the province’s request, a Joint UBCM-Province Advisory Group conducted an analysis and asked local governments to make recommendations for the province’s consideration. Requests for action included:

  • Introducing a provincial regulatory framework, similar to those in place for ride-sharing and other regulated industries, for platform accountability and information validation for online accommodation platforms and short-term rental hosts.
  • Requiring all online accommodation platforms to make data available through a provincial interface from which local governments can pull information on property listings, hosts, bookings, and complaints in their community.
  • Requiring online accommodation platforms to publish business license or permit information with local governments directly on the platform to prevent false information in listings.
  • Introducing legislation to make tax collection of PST and the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) at the point of booking a requirement for online accommodation platforms.
  • Investigating changes to the MRDT to increase consistency across the province and expand the use of that tax revenue to offset impacts to housing and neighbourhoods.

If these changes are eventually implemented by the province, it could improve the housing situation for residents of Revelstoke and similar communities around B.C.