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Ucluelet proposes bylaw change to tackle Airbnb surge

The zoning bylaw change would shift future short-term rentals to long-term housing
Vacation rentals are on the rise in Ucluelet, displacing long-term residents. (Ucluelet council May 31 agenda)

In effort to slow the spread of Airbnb in the community, Ucluelet has initiated zoning bylaw changes that would remove Bed and Breakfast (B&B) as the default secondary use for all single family residential zones.

The zoning bylaw changes would also add Accessory Residential Dwelling Unit (ADU) as a secondary use. The ADU could be a cottage or cabin in a detached building for a family member or long-term tenant, but not for short-term rental.

As the new zoning bylaws are written, homeowners would still be able apply for a permit or site-specific zoning change to start a new B&B business, while existing B&B business license holders could continue to operate lawfully.

“We’re not closing the door entirely on Bed and Breakfast. We are just shifting it so that housing is the primary use that is designated as the zoning in the residential neighbourhoods,” said Ucluelet’s director of community planning Bruce Greig during the May 31 regular meeting.

Ucluelet homeowners currently pay $150 for a business licence to operate a one-room B&B. From 1996 to 2014, there were a total of 18 B&B businesses established in the community. Between 2015 and 2021, that number soared to 94 B&B businesses.

“Compared to other communities, (the fee) is pretty low. And as part of the review of fees and charges, I think that is one of the things that needs to be looked at, including what’s the cost of monitoring the existence of the B&Bs,” said Greig.

“What’s happening is the commercializing of residential real estate. There is a tough choice here and it really comes down to political will and community preference of housing versus values where people are buying properties simply to create hotel rooms for the return,” he said.

Councillor Lara Kemps asked district staff if there is anything that could be done to incentivize moving from short-term rental to long-term.

“There has to be some kind of motivator. Short-term is easy. It’s easy money and you don’t have to deal with the tenancy act. There are a whole bunch of broken systems that follow down that line,” said Kemps.

Greig replied.

“The biggest thing is to take it out of the zoning as the default accessory use because you’ve got 70 or 90 or 100 of them today. You don’t have to recognize and make them legal. You could allow them to be lawfully, non-conforming and maybe they go away over time, but I think you might have 70 or 90 of those business owners at your public hearing that might see it differently. But it’s really about stopping it from spreading to every property in town so you have a thousand more of them in 30 years,” he said.

Councillor Rachelle Cole voiced her opposition for the zoning change.

“I don’t want more short-term rentals, but I certainly don’t want to take anything else away from (residential owners),” she said, noting that if people were actually taxed properly that would be more of a deterrent.

Councillor Marilyn McEwen expressed her support.

“Our goal is to create less nightly rentals and more long-term housing. We are still leaving options open for people who might change their mind 10 years from now and might want to do a B&B, they can apply to do that. I am comfortable with all these recommendations,” she said.

Councillor Jennifer Hoar weighed-in.

“If we want to do something about the horrific exponential rise in the graph of the (short-term rentals) in our town over the last few years, then we need to make a strong stand,” said Hoar.

“Yes, unfortunately,” said Mayor Mayco Noel.

At its May 31 meeting, council sent the bylaw change that would remove B&B as the default use for all single-family residential zones to first and second reading. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28. District staff are encouraging Ucluelet homeowners who have not yet applied a B&B business licence, but can demonstrate they were taking steps toward preparing an application prior to June 1, to contact the district office before June 10.

RELATED: Data project blames short-term rentals for strangling Victoria’s housing market

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