Nanaimo seeking feedback on short-term rentals, affordable housing

Nanaimo is staging surveys to gauge support for bylaw changes aimed at regulating short-term vacation rentals and collect feedback on the city’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.

Proposals include permitting short-term rentals in all zones in the city and allowing short-term rental of an entire home provided the operator lives in that home for most of the year.

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Nanaimo would also require business licences for short-term rentals. Other communities, including Victoria, have similar rules.

Communities have been implementing short-term rental policies as listing on platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO increase.

As of May last year, there were about 520 short-term rentals in Nanaimo listed on such platforms, a city report said. Most were for an entire home.

“There is ongoing concern that short-term rentals have the potential to impact the availability of rental housing for long-term tenants,” said Nanaimo’s 2018 affordable housing strategy report.

Recommendations include requiring a business licence for short-term rentals and preparing a guide outlining requirements for operators.

Victoria saw the number of short-term vacation rentals drop by 172 within a few months after it began monitoring and enforcing transient accommodation regulations in late 2017. Staff said then that landlords renting for 30 days or more (allowed under the city’s bylaw) reported that they were increasingly renting to students on a month-by-month basis.

When it comes to affordable housing, Nanaimo wants to hear from renters, landlords and property managers about their experiences in finding and maintaining homes for rent.

The surveys are open until May 10. To take part, go to ­­reimagine-nanaimo.

Nanaimo’s rental vacancy rate is at an ultra-tight one per cent — “well below the five per cent threshold indicator of a healthy rental housing market,” the city said in a statement.

Affordable housing was listed as a top social goal by more than half of those who who took part in recent city surveys. The city has been working with social agencies and senior governments to see more social housing added to the housing stock.

The issue is highlighted by the many people who have no homes and are living outdoors. Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog estimates the number of people without homes at about 600.

Efforts to develop more housing include a new four-storey, 59-unit supportive housing building at 702 Nicol St. Most of the units will be filled by people who are homeless. One floor is allocated specifically for vulnerable women.

Construction starts Wednesday and is slated to be wrapped up by the end of summer.

In February, Nanaimo council endorsed a $65.5-million plan to tackle homelessness and related social issues in the next five years. Additional senior government support would be needed to support 4,300 people in 635 new program and housing spaces under a plan created under the city’s health and housing task force.

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