Sidney legalizes Airbnbs

Short-term rentals must follow new rules

Short-term rentals found on the likes of Airbnb or Homeaway are now allowed in Sidney. At a public hearing on Sept. 24, Sidney council approved a zoning bylaw amendment that allows the change.

Previously, tourists could only stay at hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts to keep within the bylaws, but Sidney council noted that the number of short-term rentals (STR) has been growing.

“Our main objective for moving forward with this bylaw amendment is to preserve our long-term rental housing stock,” said Sidney mayor Steve Price. “With a nearly zero per cent vacancy rate, every available unit counts towards offering long-term rental housing.”

Previous bylaws prohibited STRs, but since there clearly are STRs in Sidney (35 listings are shown on Airbnb’s website as available for Sept. 27-30), Coun. Peter Wainwright said the bylaws should be changed so STRs can be regulated.

RELATED: Saanich considers short-term rental bylaw

People wishing to create an STR will have to abide by a set of rules, which the town says is to ensure there is minimal impact on the availability of long-term rental units. These requirements include:

· Only one (1) STR is permitted per property.

· The property (i.e. single-family dwelling, condo, etc.) must be continuously occupied by a permanent resident, whether it be the owner or a tenant.

· STR is not permitted on properties that have a secondary suite or other secondary dwelling unit occupied by a long-term tenant (however, the secondary dwelling unit may be used for STR if not occupied by a long-term tenant).

· STR is not permitted on properties that have an active residential boarding or bed and breakfast use.

· No more than two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be used for a STR.

· A bedroom in a STR may not have separate or additional cooking facilities.

Steve Tait, general manager of Sidney’s Cedarwood Inn, said the change likely wouldn’t affect his business much because they have many returning guests who come year after year.

“A lot of guests have known me since I was just a kid. I don’t expect it to affect me as much,” he said.

RELATED: Victoria gets pushback on short-term rentals

One concern he did have was that his staff would have trouble finding long term housing if more secondary suites or affordable homes were converted into STRs.

Of the approximately two dozen letters received by the town on the issue, Wainwright said “they’ve been a real mix,” with some hotels in town saying it was not a level playing field. They wanted STR operators to pay commercial tax rates and get formal business licenses. Operators of STRs said they attracted people to the community and contributing to the local economy. Others were concerned about the availability of housing, saying increasing STRs would create “ghost hotels” and reduce the rental stock of homes designed for long-term residents.

Coun. Cam McClellan said one of the reasons why owners must live in the home if offering a STR is because he heard complaints of one resident who owned a duplex where the adjoining home was dedicated to STR. As a result, it frequently hosted loud parties.

“To buy houses just to rent them out … I can’t support that,” he said.

The motion carried unanimously.

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