The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is looking at zoning amendments that would support secondary dwelling units being used as long-term rentals, not vacation rentals. (File image)

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is looking at zoning amendments that would support secondary dwelling units being used as long-term rentals, not vacation rentals. (File image)

Columbia Shuswap Regional District director argues short-term rentals shouldn’t be prohibited

Regional district working on zoning amendments to support secondary dwelling units

Proposed zoning amendments supporting long-term rentals, not short-term, within parts of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District didn’t sit well with some Electoral Area directors.

At the Jan. 12 Electoral Area Directors meeting, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) planning staff provided an overview, particularly for the benefit of new directors, of some of the projects being worked on. One of them involves proposed zoning amendments to permit secondary dwelling units in Electoral Areas B through G.

Planner Christine LeFloch explained a housing needs assessment conducted between 2018 and 2021 confirmed “rental accommodation is scarce and unaffordable in all our CSRD communities, and home ownership is unaffordable for many people.”

“In some areas, notably areas B,C, E, F and G, where we have a tourist economy, there’s also a higher proportion of seasonal dwellings and there’s tension between demand for permanent and temporary accommodations,” said LeFloch.

One way staff can address affordable housing needs in rural areas is through zoning, creating opportunities for residents to have a legal secondary dwelling unit (SDU), which may be a basement suite, carriage house, detached garden suite or cottage.

“Secondary dwelling units provide additional rental accommodation within a community while also providing an additional source of income for the owner,” said LeFloch.

“The key to making this work as rental housing is to ensure the units are not permitted to be used as short-term vacation rentals. These bylaw amendments will include regulations prohibiting the use of an SDU for a vacation rental.”

Staff is looking to complete the proposed amendments in phases, with Phase 1 focusing on Area F (North Shuswap).

Phase 2 will include Area B (Rural Revelstoke), the Ranchero and Deep Creek parts of Area D, and Area E (Rural Sicamous, Malakwa, Swansea Point).

“These areas already have secondary dwelling unit regulations, but they will need to be amended so they are consistent with what’s being proposed for the rest of the region,” said LeFloch.

Phase 3 will include Area C (South Shuswap), Salmon Valley in Area D, and a the newly created Area G. LeFloch said two of the three existing bylaws for these areas date back to 1991 and 1997 and are due to be redone.

“The South Shuswap zoning bylaw in particular, which covers G and C, will be the most complicated to amend because there are a lot of special regulations in that bylaw that permit cottages and additional dwelling units and they pose additional challenges to remove or amend,” said LeFloch.

Electoral Area A (Rural Golden) was not included as it does not yet have an official community plan.

Area C director Marty Gibbons was especially vocal about the proposed amendments not supporting short-term rentals.

“I think it’s a little naive when we approach private citizens and ask them to help with the housing crisis, to spend personal capital to meet all these requirements, get all these permits, it just really deters people from doing it,” said Gibbons. “The other thing is we have dozens of these Airbnbs presently in existence, that apparently shouldn’t be in existence, and are we going to restrict them, are we going to do enforcement action on the existing ones, are we going to grandfather them…?

LeFloch said she understood Gibbons’ concerns, and explained how currently, related bylaw enforcement is complaint driven.

“If we don’t receive complaints, we don’t generally go out and start coming down on people for these things,” said LeFloch. “But I think we need the ability to do that if we do receive a complaint… If it’s in the bylaw, we can enforce. If it’s not in the bylaw, we can’t enforce.”

Read more: District of Sicamous adopts new zoning bylaw regulating short-term rentals

Read more: EDITORIAL: Considering short-term rental units

CSRD planning services team leader Corey Paiement added that while the proposed amendments don’t permit short-term rentals, people could still apply to operate one.

“If someone wants to do short-term vacation rentals, or continue with something that exists, they’d have to seek additional approval to do so,” said Paiement.

Area E director Rhona Martin argued the regional district has a role to play when it comes to promoting healthy communities through opportunities for affordable housing.

“I can support what’s being proposed here because there’s an avenue for somebody that has a home, if they wish to apply, to do short-term rentals – they have an avenue to apply to do that in a legal way,” said Martin.

Gibbons maintained he wouldn’t support a prohibition on short-term rentals.

“It’s being shortsighted to just say as long as no one complains, we won’t do anything,” said Gibbons. “I think there is a significant amount of short-term vacation rentals out there right now, and I think the new bylaw should take into consideration the present landscape.”

Chair and Area F director Jay Simpson called short-term rentals a “critical part of our economies,” but agreed the CSRD has to find a way to provide affordable housing.

“So I understand the challenges and I’m not sure how you deal with it,” said Simpson. “Telling people that they can’t have an Airbnb or a vacation short-term rental – Yeah, it’s going to put some people off…”

Simpson suggested most short-term rentals are operated without issue.

“Just because, it’s the negatives that always get in the news right, so you hear about the bad ones but there’s hundreds of ones that don’t have any problems,” said Simpson. “It’s not that big of issue. I’m in that business and I’ve never had a problem.”
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