Comment: Hotel industry should invest in staff housing

Re: “Airbnb issue tough nut to crack for Victoria council,” June 30.

Where did the hotel industry come up with the bizarre idea that private homeowners should be responsible for providing convenient accommodation for their staff?

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Might I suggest if staffing accommodation is difficult, they follow the example of Whistler and Banff and invest in staff accommodation. We have a well-established history of dealing with hospitality staff accommodation issues in western Canada. It is nothing new. But to suggest that small business owners who offer short-term vacation rentals should abandon their chosen business model to accommodate the hotel industry is.

Further, why is it so onerous that one has to locate in Langford. In my working career, I, at various times, had to commute from Victoria to Sidney and to Langford. It never once occurred to me that I was somehow hard done by.

They where choices I made. As the employee did who chose to lease in Langford. If that decision was predicated on income, the hotel industry should review its wage structure in this market.

If, as the Airbnb spokesman states, the typical host earns $4,200 per year and 75 per cent of rentals are for entire homes, it is highly unlikely that this is housing stock that is available for lease or long-term rent on a year-round basis. It certainly does not appear that these units would be available for Delta Ocean Pointe Resort staff.

Though I am retired, I, like the millennials, rent out a basement suite as a short-term vacation rental through a local agent, as a mortgage helper. It provides an income supplement to our household, but it also helps to support booking agents and cleaners. Indirectly, it has offset the costs of painters, landscapers, plumbers, accountants, all with local payrolls.

Our guests seldom stay for less than a week, but frequently for a month or more. As a short-term vacation rental, we occupy a space the local hotel industry has abdicated: the long stay and the snowbird.

We offer a pet-friendly, fully serviced private suite with washer and dryer, fully equipped kitchen and private patio. Where are these facilities in the current hotel market? Whose market are we eroding?

Perhaps the hotel chains should be looking to the business model of tiered offerings and start building more affordable accommodation. Seemingly, every major chain now offers a spectrum of choices under their principal banner; Marriott Courtyard Inn and Residence Inn, Sheraton’s Four Points.

Frequently, our guests chose us for a different vacation experience. Bluntly put, they do not want the hotel experience. Our current guests from Portland have a large dog, a bike and a desire to ride and walk in a scenic residential area.

They will eat out in restaurants, buy some groceries, perhaps some local beer or wine, and might visit a bike shop. They contribute to the Victoria economy.

Many of our guests are not vacationers. We have had guests who were students attending short seminars, hospital locums, local homeowners whose renovations ran on longer than expected and contract workers.

The short-term vacation-rental social good is obvious. We and our guests contribute extensively to the economy. We pay taxes, we employ local trades and professions. We provide a place for visitors who want a more residential experience and an opportunity to interact daily with locals, just as many Victorians look for when they travel.

It is overreaching for councillors to demand that all residential accommodation be allocated to long-term renters.

First, I believe it is my right to decide what type of client I choose to accommodate. It is not for council to say that I must accept the potential problems of long-term tenants.

Second, long-term tenants are possibly going to be more disruptive to neighbours with issues such as street parking, more persistent noise, etc. Third, if councillors are concerned about the STVR and long stay, perhaps they should look at the loss of the old motel stock and its conversion to low-cost housing. I suggest council might be able to facilitate replacement, and the industry has pricing models other than just higher-end hotels.

In the end, the hospitality industry and council should be working together to enhance the options for vacationers, short or long stay. This recent political push by the industry to terminate the short-term vacation-rental industry is very self-serving.

Perhaps they would be better putting their efforts into making me, or my booking agent, a partner in promoting tourism in Victoria.


Bob June lives in Victoria.

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