After reading an article in last week’s paper regarding public feedback and the new OCP, I feel compelled to state my own hopes and objections to the direction the most current round of Official Community Plan development might be taking. First of all, I think the general vision for Valemount is on-point and obtainable. We can have both density and space. We can infill and spread out at the same time. I have no worries that our town will eventually develop into what we want it to be, however I do have worries about the pace, and specifically a lack of drive to actually make this happen.
Specific to using housing as short term rentals, or building laneway homes, I believe the Village is once again falling for the punitive ideology trap instead of the incentivized direction. Banning the use of laneway homes as short term rentals is braindead. The question should be asked why? Who is bothered by entrepreneurial people finding a way to make extra money with the assets they already have? Is it petty Marxist resentment of those who want to work harder for more? Similarly, the idea of vacation home rentals needing to be limited seems to be driven by people who lead by resentment ideology.
I understand two arguments against vacation rental free-for-all. Yes, there is some impact on a neighbour with the extra traffic. And yes, in theory, a home used for short term rentals is a home not being used for long term rentals. But to the first point, we have property boundaries for a reason. Unless there are late loud parties or somebody is butchering pigs in their residential yard, when did we become a society that stuck our noses in other people’s business to this extent?
As for the supply control argument, any motive based on this delusion is a bad idea. First of all, not all units that are, or will be, used for short term rentals are units taken out of the pool of long term rentals. Here is a news break for some. Rent in Valemount is extremely low (except when a pipeline rolls into town for a short spell). Rent is so low, that it is hardly worth the hassle of dealing with tenants. I know this personally because after 4 good tenants renting a bedroom at $400 a month, I got one bad one. I have never listed a room for long term rent ever again. I personally know dozens of older people with huge houses who consider renting out rooms, but they have the same experience-based reservations. Now, these landlords (myself included) are interested in renting this room out casually short term. Don’t like the person…they go away by Monday and you never book them again. So instead of achieving a secure number of long term units, banning short term rentals just restricts the local economy and keeps low-income landlords poor.
Further I want to follow another policy proposal to its logical end. How exactly would our village restrict the number of vacation rentals? Would it be capped at first come, first serve? For how long would one possess the ‘rights’ to own and operate this business? Will it be a lottery every 10 years? Auction? Why not just become like Europe and implement hereditary rights to these chartered monopolies while we are at it. Can somebody sit on this “right” on speculation, then sell it to a bidder in the future like a liquor licence used to be?
Short term rentals are a fabulous way for Valemount to monetize our greatest economic asset. There is limitless demand, why are we acting as if land here is of limited supply? For goodness sake, can we please open it up again? If land owners sitting on tens of acres of undeveloped land refuse to subdivide and get going…time to tap into the urban reserve and give land away cheap until the land owners come to their senses. Short term rentals are how spouses find gainful and meaningful self employment after following wives or husbands on a promotional transfer to this town. Short term rentals are the only hope most of my generation has of ever paying off a house before the age of 50. And if some people do not like the pace of change this will bring tough luck! My parents came to this town in the late 70s when 5th avenue had just been built. One generation built 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th 14th and over half of all the homes in the surrounding Regional District. Not all young people are screaming at the government demanding subsidized luxury apartment units with controlled rents at taxpayer expense. But eliminating the hope of income generating properties is kicking the ladder of social mobility over after climbing it yourself.
How about we meet in the middle. Short term rentals, in dwelling or laneway homes, are unrestricted within the property lines of a local resident’s primary dwelling. As long as this is guaranteed, then the Village can talk about restricting the more speculative-based absentee landlord scenarios. And eventually, short term rentals do become long term. Either ageing parents will move in, or you will find a good tenant to keep the place while traveling abroad. Our government banned me from building my own home, stopped issuing new private titles from public lands, and drove the price of housing up to unobtainable heights. Do not take away the one last shot my generation has at making something of ourselves through hard work and persistence.