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Cowichan Valley Regional District to clamp down on short-term rentals

Hundreds are currently operating illegally in the district
Aaron Stone, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said the rise in short-term rentals has hurt the long-term rental market. (Citizen file photo)

Like many of the other local governments in B.C., the Cowichan Valley Regional District is starting to crack down on illegal short-term rentals at the urging of the province as the ongoing housing crisis continues unabated.

Six of the nine electoral areas in the CVRD have decided to opt into the province’s new Bill-35, which restricts short-term rentals to principal residences and either a secondary suite or accessory dwellings.

At the board meeting on March 27, all the electoral areas other than Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Bay and Youbou/Meade Creek decided to opt in on the legislation for the year with the expectation that where short-term rentals are allowed or may be allowed in future in these electoral areas, the owner will have to live on-site, and whole-home short-term rentals will not be permitted.


The three electoral areas that did not opt-in have some zones that permit a combination of permanent residential uses and short-term rentals.

“For these three areas, opting in (to Bill 35) would mean that short-term rentals could only occur with owners living onsite…and it was determined this could be problematic for the owners who bought property with the understanding that this option would be available and legal,” according to Ann Kjerulf, the CVRD’s general manager of land-use services.

“In most of our zones across the electoral areas, short-term rentals are not permitted. Bed and breakfasts are generally permitted in most residential zones so long as the owner or operator resides on-site and breakfast is provided to guests.”

Bill 35 was introduced in December as part of the NDP’s “Homes for People Action Plan” to combat the housing crisis, and it intends to regulate short-term rental listings of less than 90 days

According to the province, there are currently 28,000 short-term rental listings in British Columbia, which is an increase of 20 per cent in the last year.

As a result, more than 16,000 entire homes, meaning units listed for the majority of the year, have been pulled out of the housing market.


A CVRD staff report said that a thorough review of the district’s residential and comprehensive development zones throughout its nine electoral areas indicates that a total of just 83 parcels in such zones have the theoretical ability to legally conduct short-term rental activities.

“This means that most of the hundreds of existing short-term rentals in the CVRD’s electoral areas are not legal and they will soon be prevented by the province from advertising on Airbnb and VRBO,” the report, written by the CVRD’s community planning manager Mike Tippett, said.

“This contrasts to the knowledge that upwards of several hundred properties are listed at any given time on Airbnb and VRBO, which, combined with the province’s Bill 35 changes that will apply soon, means that the CVRD will likely be approached soon by existing operators who will be seeking approval for such operations to continue. This can potentially take three forms; which include CVRD-initiated broadly based rezoning, site-specific rezoning by landowners, and temporary-use permits.”


CVRD chair Aaron Stone said the province has made it quite evident that it is pushing for more stringent regulations around short-term rentals.

He said most of the CVRD’s electoral areas opted in to Bill 35 because they recognize the value of long-term housing, particularly when some people “commoditize” housing and sometimes own numerous properties and use them as short-term rentals, which takes them out of the long-term rental market.

“That hurts everyone at every level of our society,” Stone said.

“There’s a lot of varying opinions on short-term rentals but I think the facts are quite clear since short-term rentals have become prolific, both in the municipalities and the electoral areas.”

Kate Segall, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, added that the strategy is not meant to prevent people who own a home and have a secondary suite that they run as a bed and breakfast to support their mortgage from doing so.

“It’s to prevent housing from being turned into a business which is influencing the housing crisis that we’re in,” she said.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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