Short-term rental regulations coming to Powell River, B.C.

Regulating Airbnb and other short-term rentals is becoming an increasingly complex process across B.C., and the municipality of Powell River is the latest to take a stab at regulation.

'Our rental market is very, very, very tight,' says mayor

Powell River is the latest municipality in B.C. to draft regulations for short-term rentals. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

Regulating Airbnb and other short-term rentals is becoming an increasingly complex process across B.C., and the municipality of Powell River is the latest to take a stab at regulation.

Many homeowners rely on the income short-term rentals provide, but regulations differ from city to city. In Vancouver, for example, operators require a business licence

Powell River recently drafted bylaws it hopes will address some of the issues around short-term rentals.

There are dozens of short-term rental listings in the city on websites such as Airbnb and VRBO, but none have business licenses or pay business taxes to the municipality.

Powell River Mayor David Formosa says rental apartments are sparse in his city, and he's concerned short-term rentals are contributing to the problem.

"Our rental market is very, very, very tight," said Formosa.

"We're very concerned Airbnb will take away housing stock, either apartments and/or whole houses."

New Rules

Formosa said the regulations are still a work in progress, but the public consultation process has been completed. He anticipates the finalized regulations will go before city council within the next two months.

Though the specifics of the new rules are still being decided on, Formosa said they will most likely include short-term rental operators requiring a licence to continue their business. The licence will be purchased from the city for a fee, he said.

Also, Formosa anticipates there will be a cap on the number of short-term rentals allowed to operate in the city. Parking accommodation and consent from neighbours are also factors the city will consider when issuing the new licences, he added.

Ocean Point

Formosa said the issue of Airbnb in his city first came to his attention when Marie and Marv Coe, owners of Ocean Point Bed and Breakfast, approached him in early August. 

They told him theirs has been the only licensed bed and breakfast in the city for the last few years. All others, they said, have turned to the unlicensed Airbnb option.

Formosa said the plight of the Coes is one he takes seriously, and he's eager for the regulations to go into effect. He said any short-term rental operators who ignore the new regulations will face penalties.

"We would send our bylaw officers there and start fining them," said Formosa. "If they continue … we'll get more heavy handed, but we don't like to do that."

With files from On the Island

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