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Cortes Island opts in to provincial Short Term rental residence requirement

Requirement ensures that short term accommodation operators live on site
Cortes Island is opting in to a provincial program to require short term accommodation owners to live on site. File photo

Cortes Island has opted in to the province’s Principle Residence Requirement for short term accommodations to help ensure housing is available for the local workforce.

Under the Short Term Rental Accommodations Act, the requirement ensures that short term accommodations can only be operated if the owner lives on the property. The requirement is optional for some communities, while others — including Campbell River — automatically have the requirement in place. Cortes Island director Mark Vonesch said that the move would help protect housing for the island’s workforce, and that a majority of islanders were in favour of more regulations on short term rentals.

“This was based on a really comprehensive survey that was done on Cortes,” said director Vonesch during the Feb. 28 SRD board meeting. “We had 265 people respond and there was a three to one ratio in favour of opting in to this. I think as far as tourism goes, basically every business on Cortes struggles in that capacity because of lack of housing for employees. It’s not going to make a huge difference to the number of new rentals that are available, but it will make some difference.”

The requirement will come in to effect on May 1 for applicable communities. These communities either have a population of 10,000 or more, or are in close proximity to one of these communities. If a community has a rental vacancy rate of 3 per cent or more for two consecutive years, they can apply to opt out of the requirement.

Municipalities with populations under 10,000 are exempt from the requirement, but can opt in. Regional district electoral areas are also exempt.

Vonesch said that people on Cortes were concerned that “there is the sentiment on Cortes that if you live in Victoria and decide to buy a piece of land on Cortes, you don’t want to live on it and keep it empty that you either need to rent it out or use it for family members. It can’t just be used as a business,” Vonesch said. “

The act was introduced in October with the goal of giving local governments stronger tools to enforce short term rental bylaws. It increases fines and tickets, as well as establishes provincial oversight of short-term rentals.

Quadra Island director Robyn Mawhinney asked that the electoral area committee invite a representative from the province to its next meeting so she can learn more about the program and how it might apply to her community.

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