Richmond moves to prohibit short-term rentals
It’s a much stricter approach than bylaws proposed or adopted by other B.C. municipalities to deal with the Airbnb phenomenon
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Richmond has become the latest B.C. municipality to crack down on short-term rentals, but it’s taking a stricter approach than Vancouver, Nelson and Tofino, which have all proposed or passed motions to regulate, but allow, short-term rentals.
“The original staff approach was to regulate and control (similar to Vancouver),” said Malcolm Brodie, mayor of Richmond.
“But where we ended up as a council on Monday night was to recommend prohibition of short-term rentals unless they can fit into one of the exceptions, the biggest one which would be bed and breakfasts.”
Additionally, council also plans to empower city inspectors to be able to immediately enter a home when they suspect it is being used for a short-term rental.
Staff had originally recommended an approach similar to Vancouver’s, Brodie said. But at a council meeting on Jan. 9, Richmond city council directed staff to bring forward recommendations on amending current regulations to prohibit most short-term rentals. Staff will present their report to council in February.
As sites like Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner have grown in popularity, B.C. cities have grappled with public concern about an increasing amount of housing being used for short-term rentals in the midst of a housing affordability crisis.
While Vancouver had an existing bylaw prohibiting rentals of less than 30 days, Richmond currently has no such restriction.
“Our read on is that Vancouver’s primary motivation would be to free up rental space for people wanting to rent and that is a factor for us,” Brodie said. “But a far greater and immediate motivator would be the detrimental effect that the Airbnb-type short-term rentals are having on the neighbourhoods.”
Some of those effects include parking, noise and security as large numbers of people come and go from residential neighbourhoods, Brodie said. There have been media reports about several Richmond homes being used as illegal hotels. Brodie confirmed some properties have been set up as “little hotels” but short-term rentals in Richmond also include condo units, whole houses or rooms in a house.
In November, city staff counted a total of 1,586 Richmond listings on Airbnb and other sites.
Council will also be looking to increase fines on unlicensed bed and breakfasts, and has already hired an extra bylaw officer to try to enforce proactively rather than by just reacting to complaints, Brodie said.
As for inspections, Brodie said that currently, inspectors cannot immediately enter a house when they receive a complaint, and when they return to the house, often the evidence of the illegal activity has been removed.