The short-term rental (STR) industry is exploding everywhere with the rise of Airbnb, the online accommodations platform.
City of Chilliwack is preparing to regulate these kind of accommodations with bylaw amendments that should be ready by the end of the summer.
But first stakeholder input is being sought through EngageChilliwack as council considers the pros and cons of the various types of STRs.
Right now there are eight licensed bed and breakfast (B&B) operations in Chilliwack – the only kind allowed at the moment.
“This is the only form of STR that is permitted with current zoning bylaw,” Karen Stanton, manager of long-range planning for City of Chilliwack, explained to council in her presentation.
A B&B can offer up to three rooms for rent within a single family dwelling, as long as there’s a owner/operator on-site, and sufficient parking spaces.
The online tracking website, AirDNA, showed 123 STR listings for Chilliwack recently, with 86 of them offered as entire homes, while 37 of them are listed as private rooms.
“Our previous zoning bylaw did not regulate STRs so it wasn’t prohibited, and business licences were not previously required to rent a room, a house, a suite, or a townhouse,” Stanton said.
The current zoning bylaw was updated to prohibit tourist accommodation inside residential dwellings, she said, as an interim measure to address the growing industry, and to allow the policy review that’s now taking place to get underway.
There are benefits and concerns with the various options, but the goal is striking a balance between supporting the tourism economy, and the need to preserve affordable housing stock.
Four options being studied include sticking with the status quo, commercial operation, home sharing, and same parcel STR.
Staff recommendation is for the fourth option, which has STRs on the same lot as the owner’s principal dwelling unit, either with spare rooms for rent, or another unit on the same property, with owner residing on the property.
“I think the recommendation hits the sweet spot,” said Coun. Harv Westeringh, as that option allows homeowners to consider STR, while keeping them accountable to the neighbourhood.
Coun. Jeff Shields pointed out that with “Chilliwack losing two hotels recently,” the city is in need of short-term rentals, which can be a good mortgage helper.
Coun. Jason Lum wanted to know how the added enforcement efforts might affect staff time, and hoped that would be considered.
Timeline for stakeholder engagement process will be until the end of July, at EngageChilliwack.com.
Amendment bylaws will be finalized after stakeholder process is complete, and it comes back to council at the end of the summer.
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