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Prince George city council wary of B.C.’s short-term rental act

City staff to come back with information to help councillors make a decision on how to approach opting out, if that is what they decide to do.
New rules are on the way for owners of short-tern rental accommodation in B.C.

After a lengthy discussion Monday night, Prince George city council ordered administration to examine the city’s options to opt-out of new provincial rules governing short-term rentals.

In October, the B.C. government introduced legislation to rein in in what it says is a rapidly expanding short-term rental market. 

The legislation would limit short-term rentals to within a host's own home, or a basement suite or laneway home on their property. 

The changes will be phased in, with the principal residence rule to be implemented by May 2024 and data sharing expected from online booking platforms by next summer. 

Short-term rental hosts will also have to join a provincial registry, and the government will launch a compliance and enforcement unit to make sure the rules are being followed.

“We've gotten many letters from people highlighting the benefits of short term rentals for our health care workers, for other professionals who need that kind of lodging so that they don't have to stay in a hotel while they're here for a month or two,” said Coun. Trudy Klassen, who brought forward a motion with Coun. Brian Skakun for council to discuss the issue.

She added that she and Coun. Skakun wanted staff to come back with more information to help councillors make a decision on how they would approach opting out, if that is what they decide to do.

“When this originally came in, I thought it was a bit high handed from the province, no consultation with us really on this from local governments. I thought, you know, this is an opportunity for us to get feedback,” said Skakun.

He noted he spoke with one owner who has a short-term rental near the hospital specifically for hospice care.

“There's the healthcare professionals that are coming to town that need places, there's construction workers, there's a number of opportunities for folks to come that don't want to stay in hotels or motels.”

However, City Manager Walter Babicz confirmed that exact details regarding the legislation have not been made available yet.

“The provincial legislation isn't anticipated to come into force until May of 2024 and with that, we anticipate some regulations that would specifically set out the process for a local government to opt out of the principal residence exemption,” he explained.  

“Provided that the local government can demonstrate a vacancy rate over a prescribed amount, I believe it was contemplated to be around 3 per cent. So, until all those details are really enacted by the province, it would be challenging for us to come back with any confirmed processes.”

Regardless of the timeline, other councillors spoke in favour of Klassen and Skakun’s desire to get more information on the city’s options.

“While the goals are important, the idea of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, and having Victoria make a decision about Prince George, that doesn't work for me,” said Coun. Garth Frizzell. "The direction to look into how we can opt out is a good one because I think Prince George should be making decisions about Prince George, not Victoria.”

Coun. Kyle Sampson agreed with Frizzell.

“The province continues to put a cookie cutter legislation that's making it really challenging for municipalities to self-govern,” he said.