I have seen this twice now come up on social media over the last number of months. This article, “COLUMN: DOS, crack down on Airbnb” as well as some very childish comments by people on council, discussing “making an example” of people have obviously sparked heated discussions online.
Yes, the District needs to take action on Airbnb. However, we are not Whistler. We do not have countless hotels and ample zoning for nightly rentals. We have no legislation whatsoever. The discussion should be much less one-sided than a jaded opinion piece.
Questions to be considered: what areas or type of housing are we going allow to apply for business licenses?
Will there be a maximum amount of homes and condos granted business licenses? Will the DOS be confirming, prior to issuing business licenses, that a) only the homeowners will be renting the property, not renters posting their property? b) Does the homeowner have insurance for nightly rentals? c) Is at least one part of the property resided in full time. For example, a house could be rented nightly, but the suite is used long-term or vice versa?
Are our hotels full? Are we actually going to educate homeowners on how to make the decision? Given the high rent you can charge in the long-term, is there actually any benefit to renting short term? You have increased cleaning cost, increased insurance cost, you have to include hydro/gas in the price you get, and Squamish, while changing, is most popular in the summer months. You may average less than 50 per cent occupancy or no income at all in the winter months. Is this enough to make it worthwhile to do nightly rentals? This changes things so, when educated, it may only be worth it to a family to rent on busy weekends when they want to be away from their primary residence themselves. Is the research taking into consideration, when quoting numbers, the families that are leaving their own residences for short amounts of time to make extra money? There are examples when Airbnb may work great: if you rent to a teacher 10 months a year who wants to go elsewhere in July and August — maybe you Airbnb for two months to make up the rent in the short term.
I have lived in the corridor for 17 years. While at times it is unfortunate, people move out, and people move in. Demographics change. Affordable housing is needed for many reasons, including employee shortages. But Squamish is not going to become what it once was. For better or for worse, depending on your opinion. A careful study of vacation rental zoning implementation is required, and Squamish can look to communities such as Revelstoke, Tofino, and even Pemberton for what they are implementing or starting to consider.
Jennifer Eyben, Squamish