In the lead up to the October 15 municipal elections, The Free Press will be passing along reader-generated questions to the 16 candidates for public office at the City of Fernie.
On Monday this week, we posed this question from a reader:
- “Given how much housing gets taken up by short-term rentals, denying housing stock to locals and those who work here, would the candidate support banning or severely restricting short-term rentals in Fernie as a way to tackle the housing crisis in the short term by forcing those units back into the long-term rental market?”
Candidates were asked to answer the question in 100 words or less as if they were at an all-candidate forum.
Only candidates who responded by deadline (September 29, 12 noon) are included. Here are their responses verbatim, in no particular order:
Nic Milligan (mayor candidate)
Many communities were challenged by the rapid rise in this niche accommodation and its effect on long-term rental availability. There is a balance between restrictions and an open market. I will work to understand what the municipality can do to have an impact in this regard, including working with current operators to understand what might incentivise them to switch from short- to long-term rentals. All current operating STRs should be in compliance with the City of Fernie bylaw and the city should continue enforcement to ensure community concerns are addressed.
Kevin McIsaac (incumbent council candiate)
Short-term rentals (STR) have a bad rap but I believe the wrong kind of housing (as in too many single-family dwellings and not enough multifamily) is more responsible for the lack of affordable long-term housing. There are already restrictions on STR, such as licensing and requiring primary residency, though more may be appropriate. What I am in favour of is supporting more multifamily dwellings with a better affordable housing bylaw and advocating for a partial or increased homeowner grant for long-term rental providers.
Spencer Gough (council candiate)
This has been a issue the city has been trying to address for some years. Bylaws do exist for short term rentals but it is definitely time to review how well they are being enforced and do the need to be revised.
Troy Nixon (incumbent council candidate)
Whether we are talking about second home owners or large real estate investment trusts, the commodification of the housing stock across Canada is disconcerting and plays a huge factor in housing affordability. We need a layered cake solution to solve these issues. Creating a housing authority, encouraging construction of multi-family units, and revamping our short term rental policy are a few things we can do locally. Through advocacy at Union of British Columbia Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities we can also petition the provincial and federal governments to revamp the landlord tenancy act and limit investment from outside Canada.
Tracey Audia Kelly (council candidate)
The bylaws and permitting criteria for properties qualifying for short term and those that qualify /can be permitted for long term rentals or secondary suites are different. In order to have legal secondary suites some of the bylaw/permitting criteria would need to be reviewed and/or altered. For example requirements for kitchens. We could then look at options to make longer term rentals more attractive to property owners versus short term rentals. I would like to see us be able to support more options for affordable housing.
Ange Qualizza (incumbent mayor candidate)
Short term rentals have become quite a burden on municipalities, we have both single homeowners and commercial operators. We need to expand the split classification of properties so that commercial uses of STRs are reflected in property tax assessments, the Local Government Act needs to be amended immediately so Regional Districts can issue business licenses as a tool to manage STRs, and we need to increase the allowable fines through the Municipal Ticket System for nuisance operators. STRs cost our community in a variety of ways, and we need to manage them so residential taxpayers do not subsidize this opportunity.
Zuzana Simpson (council candidate)
I don’t think it’s fair to saddle individual home owners with our city’s housing crisis. The problem we have in Fernie is access. It is a supply and demand issue. Council needs to examine this issue in depth and I will be asking staff for answers. Is it a permitting issue? How long does it take to issue a building permit? Can we streamline it? Is it zoning and/or lack of available land? If so, how can we add more housing supply within the current zoning guidelines? The demand for housing is at an all time high across the country, not just Fernie. The lack of supply is making real estate prices sky high for our future generations. We need to act now. Asking residents to offer their homes up for long term rentals may alleviate the situation in the short run, but it is not a viable, long term solution.
Harshan Ramadass (council candidate)
I would focus on enforcing existing bylaws more effectively to ensure properties are used for intended purpose only. While I support market solutions to play out, I am also mindful of not overstepping our mandate from the voters. Bans are almost always a bad idea in any issue including housing rentals. Before taking on any new policy, we must consider the fact that many regular residents participate in short term markets because it provides additional income especially in this high inflation environment. (Disclosure: I do not own rental properties/participate in ST rentals, do not have any conflict of interest)
Jesse Mould (council candidate)
The existing short term rental policys seem to pertty well established. I would support an investigation to see where the existing STR policy is failing fernie. It may be worth while in the short term to reduce the number of STR licenses awarded untill more long term rentals become available.
Do you have a question you want to hear from all candidates on? Email your question to email@example.com, and we will endeavor to reach out to all candidates on your behalf.
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