While a group of local government representatives meet to advise the province on how to address the impacts of short-term rentals on long-term housing availability, Islands Trust bylaw staff are busy dealing with violations to short-term vacation rentals.
On Gabriola, short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) require a temporary use permit, which is good for three years. Currently, there are five active STVR permits in the Gabriola Local Trust Area, according to Islands Trust staff.
Last July, the Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee adopted a standing resolution to “authorize proactive enforcement of unlawful short term vacation rentals.” Following the resolution passing, bylaw officers began reviewing advertisements for commercial vacation rentals on the island to check if listings were in compliance with the land use bylaw, or if a temporary use permit was required. As of April 28, there were 13 compliance and enforcement files open for STVRs on Gabriola. Across the Trust Area there were 160 open files with over one hundred of those for Salt Spring Island. But the work isn’t complete.
“As the summer vacation season begins there will be an increase in operations, especially if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, and with the additional staff resources, the number of STVR files will increase as we continue our efforts to bring them into compliance,” Vicki Swan, Islands Trust communications specialist, told the Sounder.
The 2021-22 budget included funding to hire an additional full-time bylaw enforcement officer and a temporary part-time community communications specialist. The job posting for the enforcement officer role closed April 29 while the communications specialist position has yet to be posted. Swan said they hope to have the bylaw enforcement officer role filled by June.
Currently, one bylaw compliance and enforcement manager and two bylaw officers service the entire Islands Trust Area and are based on Salt Spring Island and in Nanaimo. An average of 300 files are open at a time, a higher load per person than is typical for most local governments, according to Islands Trust staff.
At a March 4 roundtable on the Gabriola Housing Working Group's report, Housing Advisory Planning Commission members recommended the LTC place a moratorium on all new temporary use permit applications for STVRs “until research on how they are impacting the rental housing stock is complete,” a move similar to one the Galiano LTC made in 2019. Galiano’s decision prevented renting an entire home in which the operator was not a resident until an affordable housing review was completed. With the review wrapping up, that decision is on its way to becoming permanent, according to Robert Kojima, regional planning manager.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder