NANAIMO — The City is exploring ways to regulate and restrict short-term rentals in Nanaimo, a move considered key to addressing local housing affordability and availability.

Staff are working behind the scenes, reviewing best practices in other municipalities and preparing for community engagement on the subject. A staff report with possible regulations is expected in front of Council this spring.

Dale Lindsay, the City’s director of community development, said the recently adopted Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategyidentified regulating short-term accommodations, on sites like Airbnb and VRBO, as a priority to create more rental stock.

“Concerns were raised about the proliferation of these types of rentals and the impact it has on rental availability in the community. The strategy recommended a number of actions to regulate short-term accommodations,” Lindsay told Council this week.

A staff report said there were an estimated 416 homes or rooms advertised for short-term rental in Nanaimo at the end of 2017. That number is considered conservative.

“Approximately half of those listings were for entire homes, indicating that over 200 units potentially available for long-term rental were instead being used for short-term rental. This number may have grown significantly over the past year,” the report said.

As of November 2018, Nanaimo’s vacancy rate was 2.4 per cent, well below the threshold of a healthy rental market, the report found.

“Increased demand for short-term rentals in the summer may also threaten the tenancy of long-term renters who may face seasonal and/or permanent eviction so the owner can use the unit for short-term rental.”

The Affordable Housing Strategy recommended seven strategies to regulate the industry locally. They range from restricting short-term rentals to units where the owner lives to taxation and business licencing.

During public engagement on the strategy, the City heard “significant concern” about the impact of short-term rentals on local housing stock. Despite that, there was support for the practice as long as it was regulated and taxed like other businesses.

Lindsay was asked if the City would need more resources to enforce any potential bylaws or rules.

“The financial implications are certainly something we look at any time we make a change to our bylaws. Anytime we bring in a new regulation we want to make sure it’s effective and also enforceable,” he said.

A focus group and online survey are planned to gather feedback before Council makes any final decision on the issue.

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