Short-stays: controversy at City Hall

  • Posted on: 9 June 2016
  • By: John

Reasons or excuses?

Victorians see arguments coming forward as reasons but say that they look like excuses to clamp down on individual small owners & renters in favour of the corporate hospitality industry. Media hype and the very different situation in Vancouver & similar cites has caused an uproar over what might otherwise—and rightly—be seen as a net benefit to Victoria neighbourhoods.

Hoteliers claim their businesses are harmed by the increase in visitors who choose neighbourhood short-stay accommodations, AirBnB being the best known of many (many) services. Really? Victoria is a  HOT  tourist market benefitting from recent promotions through Condé Nast and the New York Times, both of which cite Victoria as a "must visit" destination for 2016. Personally, I do not see much risk of hotels losing business and doubt that the franchise fees sent out of our community are affected.

If Victoria innkeepers cannot compete with privately owned suites that typically lack housekeeping and food service, pools, gym and sauna facilities, well, there's something else at work.

Some Vancouver-based businesses are stretching the limit. One Vancouver building owner, apparently, turned a skyscraper into an AirBnB tower! That's a pretty obvious "hotel" operation that is clearly subject to existing rules and regulations. Enforce them! For the rest? It is a matter of meeting needs that hoteliers and bed & breakfast providers do not. Short-stay guests are a varied demographic quite different from hotel patrons. 

Shrinking inventory of affordable rental units? In our case, charging a rent to cover mortgage and ever-increasing municipal costs would contribute to the increase of already high rents in the Capital region--surely no one's goal. Our tenants appreciate that our short-stays enable us to keep rents stable for our community of long-term renters--some of whom enjoy rents dramatically below market value, year after year.

Come on Victoria, wake up! Supporting neighbourhood short-stay accommodations for visitors means:

  • new dollars for small businesses located in neighbourhoods that tourists rarely find
  • stays of longer duration than could be afforded at hotel rates—with more cash to spend locally
  • shopping at local stores (Picot, Aubergine, The Local Store, Fairway, Cascadia Liquor, Thirfty Foods, etc.) 
  • dining at local restaurants (Part & Parcel, Santé, Ça Va Bistro Moderne, Stage, the Fernwood Inn, Blighty's, Shine, etc.)
  • taking a break (koffi, Tre Fantastico, Cornerstone Café, etc.)
  • discovering amazing communities (Oaklands Sunset Market and so many others)

For owners, the income is reported on income tax returns and contributes (along with property and other taxes/fees) to municipal, provincial and federal coffers. The income helps to offset high mortgages and, importantly, supports aging in place, provides socailisation with great new friends from around the world and, for us, opportunity to give back to the community. We provide theatre season housing for visiting artists, designers, directors at the Belfry Theatre, helping to keep the cost of maintaining a valuable arts organization managable.

Our visitors have included:

  • academics from Sweden on a 6 week project at UVIC
  • parents from the Okanagan, Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta all here for 4-10 days to settle kids into university
  • cyclists from Vancouver spending almost a week exploring the area, appreciating accommodation of four bikes 
  • retirees staying 1-3 months scouting neighbourhoods before buying
  • classical musicians who stayed several months and then met with an immigration lawyer to plan a move to Canada
  • people staying a few days, glad to be out of the tourist areas to enjoy a visit with their hosts in the garden 
  • families from Mexico and Japan staying to provide their children with a Canadian, English-language experience
  • authors, playwrights, set and lighting designers, directors, actors and others who seek peaceful accommodation away from the hotel scene...and why not?

We need your support in bringing forward a balanced view of short-stay accommodations. Who are we? New grandparents who are past retirement age and still working...who are other short-stay owners? In our area: young families covering expenses and exposing children to cultures from around the globe; middle age families augmenting high mortages and university expenses; seniors combatting isolation by welcoming guests into a separate suite to maintain privacy while increasing socialisation; proudly Victorian owners who are improving their properties and contributing to their communities with funds earned in the spirit of internationalism.

Please, look behind the scare tactics and consider the benefits to our community, the needs of hosts to survive, and the joy of shared experience with guests from around the world. 

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