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Pending short-term rental regulations already impacting B.C. tourists

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Nicola Lloyd has been forced to adjust her B.C. travel plans after being told her Airbnb reservation needed to be cancelled.

The U.K. resident is flying to Vancouver this May to visit her daughter, and initially planned to use a short-term rental – unaware of pending regulations that include stricter requirements for hosts, plus increased fines for those who break the rules. 

“There's nothing telling you anywhere that the rules are changing when I booked," Lloyd said.

Weeks after she made her Airbnb reservation, she received a message from the host informing her that her stay would not be possible.

“I’m sorry for this confusion and inconvenience to you,” the message reads. "It is a devastating blow to all Airbnb hosts who love their jobs and are losing their businesses and livelihoods."

Lloyd has since received a full refund, and managed to make alternative arrangements for her stay.

"We've just booked a hotel (on) Vancouver Island because obviously the Airbnb was cancelled," she said. "And it's a lot more, the hotel – a lot more."

The B.C. NDP government's Short-Term Accommodations Act takes effect May 1, and includes a principal residence requirement for short-term rentals, meaning people will only be able to rent out the home where they live for the majority of the year. Renting out one secondary suite within a principal residence will also be allowed.

When the legislation was announced, officials estimated there were 28,000 short-term rentals operating across the province, including a significant number run by for-profit operators, as opposed to regular homeowners.

But the new rules are a blow to the province's tourism sector, according to Orion Rodgers, the director of the Property Rights Association of B.C., which was formed last October in opposition to the NDP's plans.

"Some (tourists) want separated bedrooms, some of them want separated space, different price points based on the product, and when you look at the millions … of people who visit each year, it's a really big impact,” said Rodgers.

He called the regulations "overstepping" by the government, and said the changes will increase hotel prices while creating a "black market" for short-term rentals.

"The punishment seems to handed down to the people who were holding a business licence, operating lawfully, having that zoning," he said. “They took a blunt hammer to hit a tack, to try and satisfy something where they should try to focus on building new housing."

But Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is adamant the change is a step towards addressing the province's housing crisis.

“We know people in our communities are desperately needing housing right now,” Kahlon told CTV News.

According to the government's website, there are more than 16,000 "entire homes" being used as short-term rentals in the province, which officials argue is making it harder for residents to find affordable homes to rent long-term.

"The City of Vancouver has had a principal residence requirement for years, yet we've seen people buying homes, complete homes, and having them listed (as short-term rentals) and the city has not been able to address that,"

Kahlon said. "That's why we brought in the legislation."

When asked if hotels could keep up with the pressure cities will see once there are fewer accommodation options for tourists, Kahlon pointed to the 1,400 units of hotel capacity in Vancouver’s "queue."

“We’re also going to see, for significant events like FIFA, people deciding to leave town because it’s too busy and putting their units up for short-term rental," the minister added.

Under the province's regulations, the penalty for illegal operators will triple from $1,000 per infraction, per day, to $3,000. In addition, regional districts – which currently do not have the authority to license or regulate businesses – will be allowed to license and regulate short-term rentals. 

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