By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke City Council caught an uncomfortable glimpse of the dark side of vacation rentals during a public hearing held just before their regular Tuesday afternoon meeting, November 8.
Vacation rentals seem to some homeowners to be a lovely way to make money. That may well be true but there is a dark and seamy side to it as well that pops into view when property owners decide they would rather turn tenants out of homes they have been renting, sometimes for years, in favour of turning that property into a vacation rental.
Such was the situation the Baechler family woke up to one day when their landlords, Stephen and Atsuko Knight, applied to the City for permission to transform their rental property at 1780 Illecillewaet Road into a vacation rental.
“Thank you for taking the time to address this letter concerning an application for Vacation Rental for 1780 Illecillewaet Road,” the Baechlers said in a letter to Council. “My family of four had been residents in this rental property since July 1, 2009. It was brought to my attention in August of 2016 that the landlord was going to occupy the residence as a primary property. We were presented with formal eviction notice that was had a tick box beside the reason for our displacement was due to the landlord moving into the property as a primary residence. We were to be out on November 1st.
“It was later brought to our attention that the landlord had applied to rezone the property as a vacation rental. A formal notice from the City was also delivered in early October to our door as well as our neighbour regarding rezoning. As tenants of this residence we were never once informed directly about this rezoning.
“The proper steps to inform us of the landlord’s intent were not taken in accordance to the British Columbia Tenancy Act.
“The process has left us scrambling to find accommodation or a home to purchase in Revelstoke. The current state of inventory has left us in a position where we are questioning whether or not we can stay in Revelstoke as there are no places for us to find suitable long-term accommodation in a realistic, affordable price range. We are working, middle-class professionals with a young family who are contributing members of our community who are unable to find solutions given the current state of growth in our community.”
Although the Baechlers were only people in the neigbourhood who objected in the writing to the vacation rental application, City Council was quite disturbed by potential outcome of the decision they were being asked to make. Council, has capped the number of legal vacation rentals in the city at 125, has been hearing a steady stream of vacation rental applications for the past five or six week. This vacation rental application is not the first one to be disapproved by Council. However, it was the first one rejected because a middle-class family was being turned out.
Mayor Mark McKee told the small crowd attending the five public hearings that vacation rentals will work only if applicants are “good neighbours.” Jill Zacharias, Revelstoke’s social development coordinator, testified at the public hearing saying, “I think this is indicative of what is happening in our community.” And that is precisely what Council and many others in town are worried about. There are already man illegal vacation rentals in town, depleting existing housing stocks for families and the y0ung people who come here to work.
You can watch the discussion commencing at the 55:20 mark on the first video below: