Tourism-dependent Parksville is asking the province for an exemption from short-term rental restrictions for small cabins and cottages built for visitors lured by the city’s renowned sandy beaches.
Those cabins fall under zoning categories that restrict them to being used no more than 180 days per year, and don’t allow them in residential areas, Mayor Doug O’Brien said.
There are about 120 or more such properties in the area, O’Brien said.
The province announced last month that as of May 1, short-term-rental units in communities with more than 10,000 people will be allowed only in the principal residence of the host, plus one secondary suite or laneway home.
Parksville’s 2021 population was 13,642, according to Statistics Canada.
City council is asking for an exemption to the legislation that would allow short-term rentals in units that are not an owner’s principal dwelling and have resort, tourist commercial, downtown waterfront and restricted recreation zoning.
“All we are saying is those are not suitable for long-term rental. They are purpose-built,” said O’Brien, who likened the community’s request — endorsed at a council meeting this month — to exemptions granted to designated resort communities.
O’Brien said he doesn’t oppose the planned short-term rental legislation, which is intended to open up more long-term-rentals to help raise rock-bottom residential rental vacancy rates.
He estimated Parksville’s vacancy rate is 1.6 per cent, but said the city is building a “huge amount of rentals.”
The only thing holding back more development, O’Brien said, is the limited number of contractors and tradespeople on Vancouver Island.
The town is putting together a list of new rental apartment units underway to show the province the fast pace of building, the mayor said. “We are not sitting on our hands.”
Despite the rapid pace of construction, the vacancy rate is hardly budging because “as many as we build, they fill up,” as people return to live in Parksville from Victoria and the Lower Mainland, O’Brien said.
The mayor suggested the provincial government could grant Parksville an exemption from the short-term rental rules if the city reaches a certain number of new rentals.
Keeva Kehler, Parksville’s chief administrative officer, told council that if the properties zoned for part-time rentals were to become year-round residential units, that “definitely changes the amount of infrastructure and services that we would need to provide in those areas.”
The Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association is set to meet Wednesday to discuss the matter.
The Housing Ministry said in a statement that future regulations will define land and accommodation types that are exempt from the principal-residence requirement, which could include strata hotels and motels, time-share properties, home exchanges, lodges and student accommodations.
The statement noted that the Growing Communities Fund provided a one-time$1 billion in grants distributed among local governments to support infrastructure projects to enable growth.