Parksville will need to achieve a three per cent vacancy rate in order to be eligible for a partial exemption from the province’s Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, according to a letter from the housing minister.
Ravi Kahlon’s letter was in reply to a request from the city’s mayor and council that Parksville’s “resort row” area be granted an exemption from the act, which comes into effect May 1.
“Your community must demonstrate a healthy vacancy rate of at least three per cent for two consecutive years,” the minister’s letter said.
The Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act will include a principal residence requirement that limits short-term rentals in communities over 10,000 to a host’s principal residence plus one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit.
Council members expressed frustration with the vacancy requirement during a Feb. 5 meeting.
“In the last 20, 25 years have we ever seen a three per cent vacancy rate in Parksville? Very unrealistic,” said Coun. Amit Gaur.
Mayor Doug O’Brien’s letter to Kahlon said a partial exemption is justified for several reasons, including that the mentioned areas were purpose-built for short-term rentals, with infrastructure designed for temporary and seasonal tourism uses.
The letter also pointed out the city’s economy depends heavily on the tourism industry, which needs short-term visitor accommodations.
During the meeting, O’Brien said it will be difficult to achieve the three per cent vacancy rate with so many people moving into the area, even with all the housing construction projects underway.
“Far more on the books. And as fast as we can build it, there’s lineups for them to come in and live here in Parksville,” he said, and added he is happy more people want to live in the community.
Lots of people travel from the prairie provinces to stay in Parksville during the winter, O’Brien said, which provides an economic boost and jobs during the off season.
“These are people’s jobs we are talking about here,” he said. “And if these are eliminated and put into what they suspect to be a full time rental situation those jobs will be lost.”
Coun. Joel Grenz said many people have expressed they feel there has been a “bait and switch”, with “strict structures around the type of housing that they’re actually requesting, which is short term rentals” and “the switch is when the province takes that away from the municipalities, to be able to allow for that kind of housing.”
O’Brien said he hopes to speak with Kahlon at the UBCM housing summit scheduled for Feb. 13 and Feb. 14.