Squamish weighs three options for regulating Airbnb-style rentals | Squamish Chief

Squamish weighs three options for regulating Airbnb-style rentals

The District presents a hardline option, a soft approach and something in between

The District of Squamish is considering three ways for how it will regulate Airbnb and other types of short-term rentals.

During an open house on May 2 at the Adventure Centre, the municipality showcased a permissive option, a moderate option, and a strict option for regulation.

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"The short-term rental issue affects people across the whole spectrum," said Coun. Armand Hurford.

"We hear about a lot [of] people looking for a place to rent, and we also have people living in a housing market that is expensive. And living in a detached home, they're looking to not just supplement their income, but supplement their income so they can afford to be there."

For all options presented, only one rental can be done per property. Furthermore, licensing and safety inspections will be implemented. The main difference between the three scenarios involves what can be rented.

In the most permissive scenario, hosts can rent out their own property.

Landlords can also rent out investment properties — in other words, places where they don't live full-time, such as vacation homes. For example, a person who owns five properties will be allowed one short-term rental per property for a total of five. This, planners say, allows hosts the greatest amount of leeway.

In the moderate scenario, the conditions are identical except for one thing — investment properties can't be rented out. The host has to demonstrate they are living full-time in the property they chose to put on Airbnb or any other short term rental service.

Finally, the most restrictive scenario is identical to the moderate option, but with one main difference. Suites can only be put up for short-term rental if you live in them.

The District is open to feedback on the options, but is hoping to steer away from either a full prohibition of short-term rentals, or a complete hands-off no-regulation approach.

"Full bans are not effective and they take a lot of enforcement," said District planner Sarah McJannet.

"And something totally permissive doesn't meet a bunch of our kind of core goals around fairness [and] life safety."

Another key goal, she said, was maintaining long-term housing affordability in Squamish.

"What we want from [short-term rentals] is the flexibility of having people come and go and having the space available for our friends and family when we want it in between," said Andrew Vervaeke, a local landlord who attended the event.

"Because with long-term tenants, we never have the possibility of having friends and family stay with us."

Vervaeke said he was leaning more to the moderate option.

"We don't like the idea of companies buying up properties and renting them out as short-term rentals," he said.

He said, however, that being too restrictive could result in unintended consequences.

"I want a common-sense approach that considers the fact that Squamish is a booming tourist destination and I think we're going to continue to be so," said Kyle Goertzen, a resident attending the open house.

He said that if unchecked, short-term rentals could push locals out of communities, but he added that landlords should have rights and a say on what they do with their property.

"I think I'm a pretty big fan of some sort of licensing regimen," Goertzen said.

He also added that good enforcement would be important as well.

The District will continue refining its proposed plans following public feedback. Nothing has been presented to council for readings, and other details, such as parking regulations, have yet to be ironed out.

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