Director’s Report: Short Term Rentals, Regional Housing + more

Hello, Daylight sure is precious on these short days, I hope you’re finding time to enjoy the scarce resource. This report has updates on Short Term Rentals, a Regional Housing initiative, Strathcona Gardens, and an upcoming Public Hearing.

Short Term Rentals
The Province has announced changes coming to the short term rental sector, adding intrigue to the legality of short-term rentals (STRs) in Area C, which have faced uncertainty since a September STR staff report. You may recall the report stated that Short-Term Rentals (STR’s) are considered a commercial use and are only permitted in commercial zones where resort or other tourist accommodation is permitted.

Upcoming provincial changes and the STR staff report were discussed at the November 8 Electoral Areas Committee meeting. Some islanders have asked me why a Short-Term Rental operated by someone who lives on the property is not considered a Home Occupation as defined in the Quadra Zoning Bylaw. What I’ve been told is that a Home Occupation must be offering a profession, conducting an occupation, or providing a craft, and neither Bed and Breakfast nor Short Term Rentals meet this definition. Staff maintain Quadra’s current zoning bylaw does not contemplate home-based businesses that rent out accommodation and the zoning bylaw would require updating to legalize STRs in residential zones.

Meanwhile, the Province is bringing in new legislation with regulatory changes for short term rentals: some applicable province-wide, others which regional districts can opt into. These changes are being phased in over the next year. One upcoming regulation Area C could opt into would permit Short Term Rental use on property on which one is the primary resident.

So where do we go from here?
Islanders… many are reliant on the tourism economy: how do we want to include short term rentals into our Official Community Plan while finding balance with Quadra’s need for long-term housing? This query isn’t hypothetical because an Area C OCP review is being planned and will begin in early 2024. This is one of many important topics community members will contemplate and have the opportunity to weigh in on.

Operators… during a further conversation with CAO Dave Leitch he suggested that regulatory details are not yet released but are trending to be more liberal than restrictive, and that land use compliance is not a fast process. To this I’ll add that we’re investigating other tools which might provide more surety.

bull kelp on the beach

Regional Housing Service
Across the Strathcona Regional District housing pressures are diverse and significant. Creating a Regional Housing Service would provide an avenue for the Strathcona Regional District to meaningfully engage in housing; without a Service the SRD is unable to be involved. To permit participation in housing, the Board has proposed Bylaws 512 & 515 to establish a Regional Housing Service & Borrowing Authorization.

With these bylaws the Regional District could partner with local housing societies across the district, and work to address specific challenges such as affordable, social, and workforce housing. The maximum requisition for the Regional Housing Bylaw is .05/$1000 of home value, meaning if your property assessment is $500k the maximum cost would be $25/year. However, the idea is that the Service would strive to be cost-neutral, by providing support during development stages, and once complete, rental income would make the loan payments. A major bonus is that establishing a Housing Service allows the SRD to apply for federal and provincial housing grants.

An Alternative Approval Process has begun regarding this potential service; if you are not in favour of the SRD creating the Regional Housing Service there is a form online at srd.ca/regional-housing-aap where you can register your opposition. This same link also shares more information about the potential Service.

Shellaligan Pass

Strathcona Gardens
At the November 8 meeting the SRD Board passed adoption of Strathcona Gardens borrowing 64.8 million dollars, after concluding an Alternative Approval Process in Campbell River and Area D.

The staff report exploring options for increasing taxes in Electoral Areas A, B, C, and Sayward Village for the Strathcona Gardens Service has not yet returned to the Board: staff said it will likely come forward in January. At the November 8 meeting the Board received a petition from 169 Sayward residents opposed to including Sayward Village and Valley in the Service area of Strathcona Gardens.

Do you want to voice concern, or support, for Area C taxation to fund Strathcona Gardens, or share your opinion on other projects of the SRD? Emails sent to administration@srd.ca and addressed to ‘the Chair and Board’ are distributed to all Directors.

Stevenson Public Hearing
December 4 at 6:30pm there will be a Public Hearing for a Topcliffe Road property regarding a potential Rezoning and Official Community Plan amendment. Find more information beginning Monday at srd.ca/meetnow.

You’re welcome to connect with me with questions or concerns. You can email RMawhinney@srd.ca, call me at 250.203.2468, or book an in-person meeting at calendly.com/robynmawhinney.

Until next time,
Respectfully and sincerely,
Robyn Mawhinney

Photos in this Report are from a recent walk along the Shellaligan Pass trail.