City council has put “some teeth” into regulating short-term rentals (STR) in Chilliwack.
Council approved the “homeshare” model of short-term rental at the Oct. 19 council meeting, with the requirement that the rental host live on-site.
But before the bylaw was approved last week, three speakers took to the microphone at the public hearing. The first two described nightmarish experiences of living near two different rentals, with partying, urinating, disrespectful renters making late-night noise, or fighting in the streets.
“We don’t want this in our neighbourhood,” one speaker said.
City staff have been working on a text amendment to the existing zoning bylaw to allow a type of STR for visitor or tourist accommodation rental for 28 days or less.
The new STR regulations will replace the old B&B bylaw.
With the explosion of short-term rentals (STR) in recent years, listed with online platforms like AirBnB or VRBO, some form of regulation has been needed in Chilliwack.
The only type of STR that has been operating legally were the bed-and-breakfast rentals, among more than 100 STRs listed online in the past year.
“This does give us some teeth going forward,” Mayor Ken Popove said.
The new rules mean that a property owner has to be living on-site, in the same lot as the rental, for monitoring and maintenance purposes. A $100 business licence, and other conditions, will also be required for anyone seeking to rent out a maximum of three rooms in their home, duplex, townhouse, secondary suite, garden suite, or a carriage house.
Coun. Jason Lum said the challenge is figuring out the balance of when and STR crosses the line into a “boutique hotel.”
“The most important message that I heard tonight was that enforcement is going to be key. We believe voluntary compliance will hopefully take care of a large percentage of these,” Lum said of the issues arising.
Lum said the rentals can provide “a welcome income” for owners dealing with an expensive housing market, as well as creating tourist accommodations.
“It’s not an either-or situation. I think I can support this and our hoteliers as well.”
Coun. Harv Westeringh noted that with more than 100 short-term rentals operating already in Chilliwack, they had to do something.
“It was a bit of a defensive measure maybe to draft STR regulations, but I think staff hit the sweet spot with this recommendation,” Westeringh said. “It takes into account parking, some home exchange, and it takes some pressure off the lack of hotel inventory. This is definitely the right mix.”
Coun. Sue Attrill praised the balanced approach and the opportunities a regulated approach will provide.
“It’s important to remember we’ve lost two major hotels in this city,” Attrill noted. “So much of our economy relies on tourism.”
Coun. Chris Kloot underlined that council can always review and make changes to text amendments down the line, if need be.
“That should temper the party house situation.”
Coun. Jeff Shields said he found it interesting in the the rental situations described by speakers at the hearing, one had a landlord on-site and the other didn’t but there were still problems with the landlord on-site.
“But now when we do have issues, the regulations now have some teeth,” Shields said. “I think this is great.”
After staff research and stakeholder consultation, council voted for the “homeshare” option, which was one of four types being studied. It requires property owner to be living on-site, with parking available, striking a balance between the need for more accommodations, preserving affordable housing stock, and limiting neighbourhood impacts.
See more about STRs on the city website.
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