British Columbia

Tofino Airbnb rentals headed for crackdown if motion passes

Tofino Council wants to crack down on illegal bed and breakfasts and nightly rentals through sites like AirBnB. They say those operators are taking up affordable rentals needed for residents and seasonal workers.

Council motion calls for more education and enforcement of rental laws for short-term rentals

A quick search of Airbnb lists 273 properties available in the Tofino area. Tofino Council wants to enforce regulations on rentals because of a shortage of housing for residents and the seasonal workforce. (

Tofino Council is considering a motion to crack down on illegal bed and breakfast accommodations and short-term nightly rentals through websites like AirBnB.

The issue has come to the fore over concerns Tofino does not have enough affordable housing for either its seasonal workforce, or for its year-round residents on more modest incomes.

"We're about 90 units of housing behind where we should be of a population of our size. That's about 10 per cent of the housing stock in Tofino, so that's significant," Mayor Josie Osborne told On The Island host Gregor Craigie.

Osborne's impression is the lack of housing in her district has been a problem for decades, "But it feels like it's just this much worse last year and this year I expect it to be even worse."

She says anecdotal evidence points to long-term rentals being turned into short-term ones, which she says is creating an unfair playing field. She says other rental operations need to be in properly zoned areas and should have to pay for business licences, and she's concerned Airbnb listings aren't doing the same.

Osborne says if the motion passes, the first steps will be to inform Airbnb operators about their obligations to get proper licences and such and how to do that. She said enforcement, if necessary, would follow.

However, she admits an Airbnb crackdown is unlikely to solve the district's housing problems — and certainly won't get Tofino 90 new units.

"I think this is part of a bigger strategy to address the affordable housing issue," she said. "This is just one piece of it. And perhaps it will free up a few [units]."

Osborne estimates 25 new housing units will come online in 2016, two of which will be "affordable."

The motion goes before council Mar. 15.

With files from On The Island

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Tofino mayor says Airbnb rentals hurting housing supply


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