The Revelstoke Mountaineer’s question and answer series with city council candidates covers a wide-variety of issues that are likely to be central to the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 20, 2018. The series features verbatim answers written by the candidates themselves. The questions were created by the Mountaineer’s civic affairs reporter Melissa Jameson and former Revelstoke Review editor Alex Cooper.
In this fifth edition of the Mountaineer’s question and answer series with city council candidates we asked council candidates to consider the following:
Do you think the city is doing enough to combat the lack of long-term rentals due to an increase in vacation rentals? Do you think there is a need to develop new regulations and/or have stricter enforcement of existing regulations?
Here are the responses from the candidates who got back to us prior to our publication deadline:
Mike Brooks-Hill (candidate for council)
In short no, the city has not done enough to rise to this challenge. The city has tried one approach – giving a limited number of properties a rezoning to allow for vacation rentals – and after this, problems with this method became evident, and this issue was pushed aside. Now is the time to do two things. Taxing both the legal and illegal vacation rental properties at a higher rate, and collecting a tax directly through Airbnb is one aspect. The other is updating the OCP and during this time, coming up with a comprehensive approach that balances housing needs in the town, with the rights of individuals to use their homes in the way they see fit. It is a complicated question, but with proper consultation with the community, I think we can find the right balance.
Cody Younker (candidate for council)
Not at all! I believe the current city council has completely dropped the ball when it comes to having regulations around short term rentals. I believe we need to look at other towns and take ideas from them that are working and implement them here with our own spin on it. For instance, I believe all short term Rentals should be required to have a business license and those who don’t that are caught renting out on sites such as Air B&B etc. will be fined a certain amount of money for every day they illegally rent out. I believe this will force some short term rentals to once again become long term rentals which is desperately needed in town. Other ideas that I think could work include giving a property tax break to homes that change their status from short term rental to long term rentals.
Gary Sulz (candidate for mayor)
We are awaiting a report from the City Planning Department on vacation rentals. This report may have some suggestions on how we deal with this issue. However, we may not be doing enough to combat the increase of vacation rentals. But this is also a major issue elsewhere. Social media and internet-based booking platforms make it easy for the average homeowner to supplement their income as a vacation rental. Some long-term rental has been diminished because of the conversion. As we work through this issue, we may need to amend regulations to counterattack the impact on neighbourhoods and infrastructure. Stricter enforcement and fines may help as well as educating the homeowner on their impact to the community. Vacation rentals should be collecting the same tax as hotels and contributing to the community in that fashion.
Jackie Rhind (candidate for council)
No, I don’t think the city is doing enough to combat the lack of long-term rentals due to vacation rentals. I believe the city has had good intentions in their attempts to regulate (deter) vacation rentals but the execution has been poor. This is a complicated matter, so I understand why the city has had trouble setting clear ordinance for how to handle short term rentals. Conversely, we are lucky because Revelstoke is a strong community that is small enough that if we implement new regulations for vacation rentals, we actually stand a chance of enforcing them – in other words, this isn’t a big city where distinguishing between a home and a rental property is impossible because no one knows their neighbour.
Yes, the city needs to develop new regulations and yes, they need to be more strictly enforced. Above all though, I see this as an opportunity for Revelstoke to be a leader in setting a policy that protects public interest while retaining reasonable freedom for residents to earn money from short term visitors. Some of the ways to achieve this include charging ‘transient occupancy taxes’ as well as restricting short term rental activity to primary residences.
Steve Kent (candidate for council)
No, the city has definitely not done enough to address vacation rentals and the subsequent lack of long-term rentals in town. In fact, we have accomplished almost nothing in this area. But we are not alone. This has become a problem in desirable locations throughout Canada. In response, The Hotel Association of Canada and the British Columbia Hotel Association have recently developed a process and a set of regulatory tools to address problems associated with short–term rentals. This is a well-researched and practical course of action intended to minimize the displacement of affordable housing, ensure a competitive playing field with other accommodation providers and collect appropriate taxes. The details are available on either of their websites.
Nicole Cherlet (candidate for council)
Housing is becoming a hot topic across our province, not just here in Revelstoke. It’s easy to talk about the symptoms, more challenging to look at the problem. The lack of long term rentals is much more complicated that just the prevalence of vacation rentals, and the prevalence of vacation rentals is being pushed by a range of issues.
The problem is that housing is so expensive in our community, even those with good incomes have to take on renters.
The problem is that the rules are so inflexible, tenants must share space in your family home, rather than using innovative ideas for density.
The problem is that the rents are so high, and the housing so limited, roommates live in closets and on floors. Damage to homes leads to homeowners becoming cynical about tenants.
Let’s take holistic view of what housing in Revelstoke could look like. The public engagement process of the upcoming OCP will help us address concerns that are raised, and come up with a Made in Revelstoke vision that is practical to implement, and does not pit neighbour against neighbour.
Peter Humphreys (candidate for council)
Generally, I prefer incentives over enforcement but the housing problem is getting worse and we need to act faster. I would support increased enforcement of vacation rentals and higher business license fees on them. They need to be treated like a commercial operation. Property owners can make more money as a vacation rental than a long-term rental so we need to remove some of the incentive. Business license fees could be lowered in the future when vacancy rates increase to a normal level.
Rob Elliot (candidate for council)
Homeowners welcoming travellers into their home or space they’ve constructed to accommodate visitors is very different than providing space for a long term tenant. Timelines, income, intrusiveness and risks vary with each arrangement. I don’t think it’s the city’s role to meddle in the homeowner’s decision. I do feel that vacation rentals need to be accepted by the neighbours, licensed, and insured. They also should be responsible to collect and remit the same tourist fees that the hotels do.
No new apartments have been built in Revelstoke in the last twenty years. Determining why and removing any city induced barriers seems an obvious fix for the rental shortage. Similarly, concessions could be offered to employers encouraging them to create affordable employee housing.
Steven Cross (candidate for council)
The key issue for me on this – “is the owner home”? I have no problem with a properly licensed, up to code, owner-present B&B or vacation rental. The problems arise when these things are absent.
Without these things in place safety and liability are issues, a neighbors quality of life is often degraded, and yes, I believe we lose a percentage of long term rental accommodation that we sorely need.
The other aspect is community building. We love our visitors of course and we want to encourage more of them but communities are not built by absent owners or by visitors. Rather they are built by people who live here and we should be doing all we can to encourage, cajole and incent individuals and families to live here as much as possible.
I also think that we should do what is needed to ensure all B&B’s and vacation rentals collect the tourism tax for two reasons – 1) the money is a flow through and goes right back to helping promote our area, and 2) it ensures a level playing field for all of our accommodation industry as is only fair.
Tim Palmer (candidate for city council)
One contributor to the lack of long-term rentals is that we have not issued building permits on a timely basis to allow the private sector to build more housing.
The City needs to fix its internal problems above taking on an overly aggressive enforcement role. If we provide the regulatory framework to allow long term housing to be built by developers and homeowners this will help alleviate demand. Currently there is a culture of red-tape and roadblocks as opposed to finding solutions. This needs to change. Council and City Hall need to be more customer service oriented. Council needs to set this direction through policy. Council and the City need to be more open and transparent to allow citizens, businesses, and developers input in the decision-making process.
If we are short sighted and shut down vacation rentals overnight, that may in turn reduce the number of tourists that drive tourism component of our economy. A balanced approach is needed that is transparent, and actively listens to all stakeholders. Enforcement should be implemented strategically while developing more proactive long-term solutions.
Tony Morabito (candidate for council)
Tough one because the DCC in its present form calls for charges on secondary suites sufficient enough for a home builder or person wanting built a suite in an existing house to not proceed but if there was an incentive by the City to wave DCC charges for a long term rental suite that falls under the affordable housing criteria and the applicant signs a covenant that would stay with the property if sold,that the DCC come due and payable at the current rates if said property is rented short term. I would certainly support that.