2016’s Top Stories #3: Housing market tightens, council regulates short-term rentals

Nelson's rental vacancy rate was 0.7 and the real estate market was out of control.

This building is part of a former motel on Nelson Ave. that will be rebuilt to create 48 affordable housing units by Nelson CARES with a $6.3 million grant from BC Housing.

City council noticed this year that there were more than 130 Airbnb operators in Nelson without business licenses. They wondered if the short-term rental operations were cutting into the availability of long-term rentals in the city.

They hired Alex Thumm, an SFU student working on a Master’s degree in urban studies, to look into the issue.

He set up a website and an online questionnaire and got a considerable response, possibly because he reached out to short term rental operators in a non-threatening way and made their opinions part of the solution.

City council then spent several months debating and tweaking, and by November they had come up with a new short-term rental operator license, with attendant rules about application requirements, inspections, fees, and parking, to take effect in 2017.

Around the world, municipal governments have been scrambling to decide how to respond to a recent proliferation of Airbnb and other short term rental operators. In Nelson there was concern that short term rental operators are competing unfairly with hotels by operating without buying business licenses, paying taxes, paying the tourism development fee, or complying with zoning.

There were also concerns about safety standards and parking, and about the question of whether more short-term rentals means fewer long-term rentals.

No one knows for certain what effect Airbnb and other short term rentals have on the availability of long-term rentals, but anecdotally, some landlords remove their rental property from long term rentals and use them for short-term rentals instead, because it’s more lucrative and some say they find dealing with long-term renters burdensome.

Several other housing issues were prominent in our coverage this year.

In January we reported that Nelson housing prices had increased 5.7 per cent in 2015, compared with rises of less than two percent in the three previous years.

In May we interviewed two real estate agents who told us the real estate market in Nelson was out of control. That week there were 37 family dwellings listed for sale in Nelson. At the same time last year there were 60, and in May 2014 there were 110. The realtors told us there was a surplus of buyers and a lack of inventory, resulting in most houses selling within days or weeks.

Good luck deciding you would rent for a few months while waiting out the housing market. There were no places to rent either.

In October the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that Nelson’s vacancy rate was 0.7 per cent, up a bit from 0.4 last year, and compared to a provincial rate this year of 1.3 per cent.

Ann Harvey of the Nelson Committee on Homeless and realtor Trevor Jenkinson, the president of the local landlord association, both said there is simply no rental housing available and none has been built for many years.

The sixth annual Report Card on Homelessness for Nelson presented grim statistics.

City council continued to wonder what it should do about affordable housing.

Some citizens continued to think city council should build rental housing, and council continued to say that’s not a city council’s job and besides they can’t afford it. Council was asked for an endorsement by two groups applying to BC Housing for funds to build low-cost rental housing, and it endorsed one of them: a plan by Nelson CARES that was ultimately successful.

BC Housing announced in November that Nelson CARES will receive $6.3 million for a re-build of four buildings that it owns on Nelson Ave. that were formerly a motel.

The units will be for seniors, adults with disabilities, homeless and homeless at risk.

In the meantime, the city and Nelson Commons worked out a deal that will see three of the Commons’ apartments sold at 75 per cent of market value even in the event that they are re-sold in the future.

And the owners of Nelson Landing, who this year were planning to begin building high-end (for Nelson) condos on their land near Red Sands beach, were not able to pre-sell enough of their initial 8-unit phase to begin construction.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two overdose deaths in Nelson over the weekend

Police warn that much of the current drug supply in the city may be dangerous

Leafs beat Nitehawks for 8th straight win

The win gives Nelson a provisional division lead

Castlegar march ensures missing, murdered aboriginal women not forgotten

About 60 people took part in the Valentine’s day memorial

Jenner scored 2 in debut as Leafs beat Thunder Cats

Nelson is on a seven-game winning streak

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Most Read