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Tofino chooses to join most of B.C. in restricting short-term rentals

Resort municipalities had been giving an option on whether to be included in the new legislation
Tofino’s municipal council voted in favour of opting in to new provincial legislation around short term rentals on Tuesday, March 12. (Image from District of Tofino Zoom meeting)

One of Vancouver Island’s biggest tourist destinations has surprisingly decided to join most of the rest of B.C. in restricting short-term rentals.

Tofino’s municipal council wrapped up one of the most divisive decisions of its term with a surprising twist last weeek, going against a staff recommendation and opting in to the new Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act.

Resort municipalities, including Tofino and Ucluelet, were exempt from the provincial legislation, but had the option of opting in by a March 31 deadline.

“Despite the vitriol expounded by a few, one thing is clear: Tofino is special. However, Tofino is not unique in avoiding the housing crisis present in Canada as well as the western world,” Coun. Duncan McMaster said.

“Not only is there a risk of a generation of people never being able to afford a home, but also the strong possibility of Tofino turning into a short term rental ghetto…The most affordable housing we have is our present housing stock. We must ensure that housing is reserved for people to actually live in.”

“Is this bill perfect? Definitely not, but it is a start and provides an enforceable baseline upon which all future short term rental revisions can be built.”

McMaster spoke to claims made during Feb. 12 open house where some Tofino property owner threatened to let their units sit empty, rather than rent long-term if council opted in, cautioning that those owners could face tax implications.

“Some may sell, possibly to locals or out of towners. Some of those out of towners may actually move here. Some will prefer to leave their homes vacant. They have that right, however, be warned; I believe that council will be advocating for Tofino to be included in the provincial empty home tax,” he said.

Staff had recommended the district not opt in immediately and instead use an upcoming zoning bylaw review to have a more fulsome look at the legislation’s implications.

District CAO Nyla Attiana said there was “strong support” for opting in to the legislation through written correspondence from residents, “but those voices weren’t necessarily as represented at the town hall or in roundtable discussions.”

Mayor Dan Law said the financialization of housing in Tofino and the province and the country is extremely serious and it is happening at an extremely rapid rate.

“If I had known four years ago that the prices would double, that we would lose homes to short term rentals, I probably would have acted a little sooner and maybe with a little more vigour. Seven years ago, if I had known that in the next seven years, the median value of a home would go from just over $500,000 to $1.6 million and essentially exclude every median household income earner from owning homes in Tofino, I probably would have acted sooner.

“But, I didn’t know that.”

Council voted 5-2 in favour of opting in.

Tofino’s neighbour Ucluelet elected not to opt in this year with Ucluelet’s municipal council voting unanimously in favour of their staff’s recommendation to wait at least a year to allow for further investigation into the legislation and see how the new regulations play out in other communities.

B.C.’s Minister of Housing Ravi Khalon was quick to congratulate Tofino on its decision, releasing a statement Wednesday morning.

“The housing crisis isn’t just an issue in large communities, it is also having a significant impact in smaller communities like Tofino,” Khalon’s statement reads.

“By passing a motion yesterday to request opt-in to our short-term rental legislation, Tofino city council has made an important decision to protect homes for the people who keep the community going, while ensuring that short-term rentals are still available at principal residences for people who want to visit.”

READ MORE: Tofino residents push against opting in to short term rental legislation

READ MORE: Ucluelet won’t ‘rush’ to opt in to vacation rental legislation

READ MORE: Tofino emphasizing crackdown on illegal vacation rentals

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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