Letter: Short term rentals infringing on long term rentals

To the Editor:

After being invited by the Town of Golden (TOG) to attend a focus group on Airbnb over a year ago… I have been waiting for the TOG to move forward on this issue, especially when it pertains to short term rentals and R4 zoning ( multi family RESIDENTIAL… i.e.: condos, apartment buildings etc.).

Currently there are bylaws in place that prohibit short term rentals (STRs) ( rentals less than 28 days in length and are considered to be hotel-like transactions and therefore commercial rather than residential in nature.) in R4 zoning. There are special licensing arrangements (e.g.: bed and breakfasts) that also restrict commercial activity in other residential zoning. Lastly, from an insurance perspective… Residential strata insurance does not cover commercial activity unless specified and higher rates will apply. Many stratas require a minimum six months to a year lease as well to fulfill their strata insurance obligations. The shorter the rental terms, the higher the insurance rates. Rates will be higher to cover the excess wear and tear on the building structures from the steady flow of new occupants vs. one owner or long term tenant who has more of a vested interest in the care of the building’s structures that they reside in. Currently, this boils down to all of the strata members being put at risk because their strata insurance does not cover STRs in R4 zoning because it contravenes the TOG’s bylaws and is therefore illegal. Not to mention, there are other issues such as increased strain on parking spaces, and jeopardizing overall security of buildings and grounds due to a steady influx of strangers visiting the property.

R4 zoning features the most affordable housing in Golden. Every time a condo or apartment is used for a STR, it takes an affordable home away from some of Golden’s residents that need it the most… Young families, seasonal workers, labourers, and young professionals alike who make up the tapestry of Golden.

Not only are we on verge of a housing crisis here in Golden, but also a labour shortage as well. Why? Because there is a shortage of long term rentals due to Airbnb, Vacation Rentals By Owners (VRBO), and other STR arrangements illegally infecting R4 Zoning. In November, I brought to the attention of the TOG, that the newest strata in our town is advertising units for short term rental on Airbnb illegally in R4 Zoning. I was told by the mayor that he would have his people look into it right away. A second letter went to the Town of Golden two weeks ago asking why this issue has not been addressed yet.

I now present this case to the people’s court of Golden. The TOG’s sluggishness towards cracking down on STR’s in R4 zoning will bite this community hard in the future. Stalling the issue in the guise of “gathering more information to make better informed decisions” is becoming counter-productive. The writing is on the wall. STRs in R4 zoning need to be addressed now before they are allowed to proliferate or the regulatory blowback will become even more complicated and painful for those who are tasked with dealing with this issue.

If a time comes when there is an excess of longterm rentals in this community, then the Airbnb in R4 zoning issue should be revisited for thoughtful integration. Currently, STRs are disintegrating our much needed long term rentals and affordable housing stock.

Will the Town of Golden protect our community and take the necessary steps to properly manage our most affordable housing stock in a sustainable way at the expense of a few individuals looking to make a quick buck for themselves?

Deanna Andersen

Golden, B.C.

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