Ucluelet’s district office has identified 16 properties that are illegally being advertised to tourists as vacation rental accomodations online.
The district has been investigating vacation rental operations since December and, last week, Ucluelet’s Bylaw Services Officer Brent Ashton presented a report to council on how that investigation is going.
Ashton’s report suggests one illegal property has stopped advertising as a vacation rental, one property was fined $1,800 for repeated non compliance, one property stopped operating and one found a long-term resident to serve as an on-site manager, which is required in order to offer a vacation rental in Ucluelet.
Ashton’s investigation identified 129 current short term rental accommodations being advertised in Ucluelet, 16 of which do not have a valid business licence. He wrote that 10 of the offending properties face no barriers towards obtaining a licence, while the remaining six cannot obtain a licence because their property is either not zoned for a vacation rental or there is no full-time resident on-site.
Coun. Randy Oliwa asked why the unlicenced properties are still operating.
“If they don’t have a business licence, why aren’t they shut down?,” Oliwa asked. “They should be either licenced or shut down…I don’t think we can go into July without, basically, saying, ‘Time’s up.’”
He said staff should focus their efforts on any properties currently operating as an illegal vacation rental that could instead be offered as housing for residents or seasonal staff.
“We need to act now,” he said.
Council agreed and passed a motion directing staff to focus on unlicensed vacation rentals that could be made available for longer-term housing.
Local urges action on housing
A Ucluelet resident is urging his local government to do something about the current housing shortage.
During the public input period of last week’s regular council meeting, Kerry Harwood said too many locals are leaving the community after being kicked out of their accommodations by landlords choosing to enter the vacation rental market.
“Things are not good out there,” he said.
He added the lack of housing is creating staffing shortages at local businesses that can’t find enough seasonal workers and asked council to put a temporary campground in place by Aug. 1, or to bring in trailers and encourage homeowners to open their homes and yards to campers and seasonal staffers.
“Relax the laws and bring people together to solve this issue that’s happening,” he said. “Tourists are coming in all over the world, confused as to why we’re not better prepared and more staffed…This is only going to keep getting worse.”
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques thanked Harwood for his consistent efforts to bring attention to the housing situation.
“We recognize the frustration, of things not happening quickly enough to solve the current problem,” she said. “We totally understand and feel what you’re saying. We’re trying to do what we can.”
Jens Heyduck suggested council look into tiny homes and laneway developments otherwise the community risks becoming a place for only retirees and vacationers.
Jessie Masso said it has become too hard for residents to purchase a home.
“It’s out of range and getting worse everyday,” she said. “We’re working for tourism, but we’re digging a hole for ourselves.”
She suggested the community should look for strategies to help locals buy homes in the community.
“When you rent something, you’re not invested in your home. You’re not invested in the community,” she said. “Rentals don’t have afuture. There’s a group of people that need it, but there’s also a group of people that need to know that they’re going to belong in the long term, or they’re going to move away…We want a long term community.”
Council wants cops to stay
Ucluelet’s RCMP detachment will continue to be a limited duration post, despite council’s efforts to lose the designation.
Police officers are currently restricted to serving a maximum of four years in Ucluelet before being transferred to another detachment. Ucluelet has fought against this policy since losing its popular detachment commander Sgt. Jeff Swann in 2015 and had asked the RCMPto look into the possibility of allowing officers to stay.
The RCMP responded with a letter, reviewed by council last week, denying the request.
The letter outlines several criteria for limited duration postings, including travel time to major city centres, access to education, medical care, entertainment and recreational facilities and developmental opportunities. It states that the RCMP reviewed its list of 60 limited duration postings in the province, but no changes to Ucluelet’s status were recommended.
“Staffing advised that there have been no significant changes in respect of the criteria that would warrant the removal of Ucluelet from the LDP list at this time,” the letter states.
Council agreed to write a letter requesting the RCMP to send the information it used to make its decision to Ucluelet’s district office.