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Pair short-term rental crackdown with vacancy controls, says advocacy group

Together Against Poverty Society says new restrictions on short-term rentals will potentially bring new “desperately needed” rentals into the long-term rental market

The head of the Together Against Poverty Society is praising the province’s new short-term rental legislation — which was passed in the legislature this week — but says it should be paired with a vacancy-control program that would immediately help with the housing crisis.

Vacancy controls cap the amount landlords can raise rents when units change hands.

Doug King, executive director of TAPS, said new restrictions on short-term rentals will potentially bring new “desperately needed” rentals into the long-term rental market.

The non-profit agency has “seen plenty of instances where we have seen long-term rentals converted into short-term rentals,” he said Friday. “It makes a lot of sense why the government has done this.”

In one case, a landlord tried nine times to evict one tenant because he wanted to convert his building, with several units, to short-term rentals from long-term, King said.

It’s too soon to see any impact on the rental market so far, he said, noting that real estate agents and property managers will likely notice changes first.

The shortage of affordable housing is becoming more dire, King said, and subsidized housing is overwhelmed by the demand. “There are just more and more people who can’t even get close to affording market rent.”

In the previous 12 months, King said, the group has seen more evictions for non-payment of rent than in the past because people desperate for housing will sign a lease for a unit that’s more than they can afford rather than going to a shelter.

As rents continue to climb, King says vacancy controls — even on a temporary basis — would have a “huge impact” on the rental market.

King also urged the province to require landlords to apply for permission to evict a tenant prior to serving that notice, as in Ontario.

As of May, B.C.’s new legislation will limit short-term rentals in communities larger than 10,000 people to principal residences and secondary suites, although communities with a three per cent or higher rental vacancy rate can apply for an exemption.

The province is removing a grandfathering clause in the Local Government Act that allowed short-term-rentals to continue operating under a legal non-conforming status. It’s estimated there are about 1,600 such grandfathered units in downtown Victoria alone.

A petition with 2,500-plus names was presented to the B.C. legislature this week criticizing the new legislation and seeking protections for owners of units used as short-term rentals.

Victoria’s Orion Rodgers, spokesman for the Property Rights Association of B.C., said he knows a number of owners who are considering selling their units if they can’t use them for short-term rentals.

Rodgers, who manages 27 short-term units, all individually owned, said the association supports regulating short-term rentals and the intent of the bill, but is opposed to targeting the legal non-conforming use in downtown buildings.

The city has 23 legal, non-conforming buildings allowing short-term rentals. Of their 1,600 units, 624 are licensed for short-term rentals. Rodgers said the province could have found a way to protect those 600-plus owners, some of whom are ­millennials entering the housing market, while others have been purchased for children coming to the city for post-secondary education.

The short-term rentals aren’t just used by tourists, said ­Rodgers. In Victoria, he often deals with nurses ­working in the area temporarily on a contract and with U.S.-based employees working in the film industry, he said.

He said once short-term rental numbers decline, local hotels will likely raise their rates.

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