British Columbia

Sunshine Coast community limits short-term rentals

The number of Airbnbs and other vacation rental suites will be significantly reduced next year in Sechelt, B.C., after the district council voted to limit licences for short-term rentals.

Of an estimated 50 short-term rental operators in Sechelt, only 15 will be able to continue, mayor says

An aerial view of Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast in B.C.
Short-term rentals in Sechelt, B.C., will be limited to address residents' concerns about partying in the community, says Mayor Darnelda Siegers. (EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock)

The number of Airbnbs and other vacation rental suites will be significantly reduced next year in Sechelt, B.C., after the district council voted to limit licences for short-term rentals.

Mayor Darnelda Siegers said council is trying to balance tourism in Sechelt, a popular destination on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, with the needs of the 10,800 people who live there year-round. 

"We were hearing loud and clear from the community that we needed to address short-term rentals in the community because they were finding that the fit and feel of their neighbourhoods was being impacted," she told Gloria Macarenko, the host of CBC's On the Coast.

The district will only grant short-term rental licences to 15 operators. Right now, the mayor says there are approximately 50 operators in the town. However, Tourism Sunshine Coast estimates that number to be anywhere from 125 to 250 based on information from AirDNA, a short-term rental data platform.

"Eliminating 100+ short-term accommodations will have a widespread impact: our accommodations are full of all types of visitors to our community, including visiting health-care workers such as nurses and locum doctors, tradespeople, visiting family and friends, and leisure travellers," Sunshine Coast Tourism's executive director said in an email to CBC.

The change comes much to the chagrin of Erin Frizzell, a Vancouver resident who owns property in Sechelt. 

Frizzell and her family visit the property once a month, but when they aren't there, they open it up to renters. 

She said she put all her savings into buying a cottage in Sechelt, a community in which she hopes to live full time, eventually. 

"We don't own anything in town. This is it," she said.

"This is our dream to raise our daughter there and to eventually retire on the Sunshine Coast in a community that we love. But for us to be able to do that, we needed to have some rentals in there to offset [the mortgage]."


Frizzell blames people partying in other rental sites for giving operators a bad reputation. 

Siegers notes that on one block there are three properties that have been deemed "party houses." 

"The community doesn't like that. They don't feel that they can actually live in their community and enjoy their community because they've always got these strangers coming in and out," she said

Three categories of short-term rentals have been identified, and each will be policed differently. Those who live in a home and rent out a suite won't be limited, and neither will those who are on the property and renting out a carriage house or outbuilding, as long as the homeowner is there. 

Secondary residences will be limited.

Siegers said there hasn't been sufficient data to detail whether all 50 short-term rentals are secondary residences.

She said licensing will come up in January, at which time staff will grant licences based on parking, garbage and other requirements but will also seek feedback from neighbours about how their renters have affected the area. 

"Everybody says they run a great facility. Who is going to be able to tell us that? It'll be your neighbours," Siegers said.

She acknowledged the effect this could have on tourism in the area but said the safety and enjoyment of those living there take priority.

"The community spoke out pretty loud and clear that we need to get a handle on this in Sechelt. They don't like what's been going on, and this is our attempt to meet the needs of the greater community."

Frizzell said she hopes the district might reconsider allowing short-term rental operators who are already in the community and acting responsibly and respectfully to be allowed to continue to rent out in a legacy agreement of some kind. 

"We want everyone to operate a cottage as responsibly as we do and be a good neighbour and just allow people a chance to come up and visit the area and enjoy that space respectfully," she said.

District of Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers explains the municipality's move to limit short-term rentals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Vancouver, B.C. Email her at courtney.dickson@cbc.ca with story tips.

With files from On the Coast

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