Last week Nelson council exempted two property owners from the the rule requiring that they must be the principal resident of a building they operate as a short term rental. It also granted a variance for a laneway house.
The homeowner at 912A Stanley St. told council that he spends four-to-seven months per year in Nelson, intermittently. So the house often stands empty.
Before the short-term rental regulations came into effect, he used the house for short-term rentals when it was empty.
Councillor Valerie Warmington wondered how many similar situations are out there, and whether granting exemptions like this one would undo the work done on the short term rental policy.
Councillor Michael Dailly said the house could be rented month to month to long-term renters.
“This is needed housing in Nelson as well, for seasonal workers and things like that. It is about the kind of variety of rental housing you want to provide here. You are losing some potential housing for people who would rent month to month.”
He said the point of the new regulations was to avoid empty houses being taken out of the long-term rental market and being rented as short-term rentals. The reason for the residency requirement was to make sure landlords didn’t buy up buildings and make a business of short-term rentals.
“As soon as you make exemptions, you open the floodgates,” Dailly said, “even though the arguments (in this case) are compelling.”
Council granted the exemption for 2018 on the grounds that it will not threaten the supply long-term rentals.
In a second exemption request, the property owner at 111 Nelson Ave. told council she lives one block away and regularly rents the house to medical and arts professionals who are temporarily resident in Nelson. Most of these last longer than one month and so are considered long-term rentals. But between these rentals she advertises the house as a short-term rental and is unable to do this now under council’s new rules because she is not the principal resident. She noted that she does have an office there and it is her place of work.
Dailly expressed similar unease with this exemption noting that if it was granted, the property could be rented out short-term all year. He recommended that when the June review comes up council should consider more detailed rules around partial time and partial use.
Council granted the exemption for the duration of 2018.
Councillor Janice Morrison, as a short-term rental operator, left the meeting for these discussions and votes.
Variance for a laneway house
In another housing-related decision, council granted a variance to a homeowner at 174 Trevor St. wishing to construct a laneway house larger and taller than the city’s current regulation allows.
The house would serve as a long-term rental for a family, and later as housing for the homeowner’s parents, constructed on the rear of a very large property. City planning staff agreed with the applicant that the additional residence would have no effect on the neighbours’ view.
Council approved the variance without councillor Bob Adams who recused himself from the discussion.
The city is in the midst of possible regulation changes with regard to laneway housing, with a public online survey and an open house scheduled for Jan. 23 at Wildflower School from 4 to 7 p.m.
Nelson plans public meeting to explore laneway housing (Jan. 2018)