Salt Spring and Galiano islands are cracking down on short-term vacation rentals.
The Islands Trust is taking legal action on each island against a specific property that is unlawfully being used as a short-term rental, including one home with eight bedrooms. The trust is seeking court orders to stop the properties from being operated as short-term rentals.
Both islands have bylaws that prohibit the short-term rental of entire single-family houses where the owner does not live, because of concerns about a lack of long-term housing in the communities, as well as a scarcity of water and high fire risk on the islands.
Both allow bed-and-breakfast-style accommodations as long as the operator lives in the home. Galiano also permits some short-term vacation rentals in cottages and suites on a homeowner’s property.
Warren Dingman, bylaw- compliance and enforcement manager for the Islands Trust, said residents of Salt Spring and Galiano islands are worried about the number of short-term vacation rentals operating on their islands.
“It’s something that is at the forefront of islanders’ minds,” Dingman said.
Dan Rogers, chairman of Galiano Island Local Trust Committee, said the problem of unlawfully operated short-term vacation rentals has become more pronounced in recent years and is a leading issue on the local trust’s agenda.
Young families are hit particularly hard, Rogers said, as they struggle to find affordable housing in a tight market.
On Galiano Island, a court order is targeting a property on Warbler Road that has been advertising eight bedrooms. It’s the largest short-term rental on the island and has no full-time resident. There is evidence the property is operating as a resort and yoga retreat, Dingman said.
On Salt Spring Island, a court order is being brought against the owner of a property on Upper Ganges Road. The owner does not live in the property, which is managed by a third party who operates several similar properties. The trust has received numerous complaints about the property since 2017.
Islands Trust staff have made repeated requests to both owners to cease operations or comply with regulations, but the properties continue to be advertised online and operate as short-term vacation rentals.
Owners have two options if they want to continue to operate, Dingman said. They can apply to have their land rezoned for commercial use or apply for a temporary-use permit, which is valid for up to three years and permits a use that is otherwise not allowed by the zoning. Galiano Island recently put a moratorium on approving temporary-use permits.
Rogers said the application process for the permit gives the trust the ability to control what properties are operating on the island.
When deciding whether to approve a temporary-use permit, Rogers said, the trust looks at the property’s location to avoid creating a high concentration of short-term rentals, and examines the impact the property will have on the community, in terms of noise and traffic, and on the water supply.
The Islands Trust has taken legal action against several operators of short-term vacation rentals.
Victoria introduced regulations in 2018 to control short-term rentals in the city and maintain an adequate long-term housing supply for renters. From December 2018, when the city started monitoring and enforcing the regulations, to late June 2019, the number of Victoria listings on Airbnb and VRBO dropped by 172 units, to 1,268 from 1,440.