Strathcona Regional District (SRD) regional directors recently had a chance to explore the impacts of new housing rules that will take effect throughout the province in May 2024.

The new rules intend to limit short-term rentals on residential properties, require AirBnb operators to register as a business, and increase the density of single-family residential zoning lots. The SRD held their monthly meetings on Nov. 8, discussing some of the new pieces of provincial legislation announced on Oct. 20 and Nov. 2.

Regional Director for Cortes Island (Area B) Mark Vonesch commented at the general meeting that he “welcomed” the new rules. 

“I welcome this legislation,” he said. “I think it’s a good solid move by the province to just think about housing as homes rather than investments, especially in small communities like our own.”

Robyn Mawhinney, Regional Director for Quadra Island (Area C), had several questions on the interpretation of the current rules during the regional area’s committee meeting the same day.

“The report, which said that short term rental use is essentially illegal on Quadra Island, and that all of them should be on a commercially zoned land. And it seems to me that a short term rental use, which is incidental to the residential use lands within the description of the home based business definition.”

“I think it seems strange to me that you would consider that a commercial use rather than an incidental to the residential character of the building, which is containing the home occupation, which is in the definition of home occupations,” Mawhinney continued. “… So I’m concerned that staff is choosing to consider that a commercial tourism definition.”

SRD staff clarified during that meeting that local governance must be followed. 

“They still need to comply with the local government. Our next step for one of those would be surveys like we did with Cortes. We had a really good response rate from the surveys that we did on short term rentals, which will inform the zoning bylaw review process.”

SRD staff were referring to Cortes Island’s bylaw review process, which they noted has been reinitiated since the last attempt in 2018 was delayed. The SRD has never updated Cortes Island’s bylaws since the SRD came into fruition in 2008. Staff indicated that the review process would continue into early 2024, with intention to update the bylaws that have been in place since 2002.

The SRD will host an open house at Mansons Hall on Dec. 11 from 1-4 p.m., for residents to stop by and review the draft Zoning Bylaw.

Vonesch also added that he had been in communication with the Minister of Housing in regards to “opting in” to the new residential density legislation for smaller communities.

“[The Housing Minister] says that there is an opt-in process for smaller communities to be able to opt in to this as well… So this seems like a real potential for us to be able to increase density  in ways that local areas can opt in to.”

To hear more about the new short-term housing rules rolled out by the BC Provincial Government and how the SRD is interpreting those rules, listen to the CKTZ News Update below: