Letter to the editor

This letter aims to express clear opposition to the proposed amendments to the District of Invermere’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw that will too lightly attempt to address this summative scourge of short-term rentals (STRs) in the community.

 The July 2023 report by David Wachsmuth of McGill University’s School of Urban Planning, Urban Politics and Governance research group, titled, “The housing impacts of short-term rentals in British Columbia’s regions” clearly illustrates that STRs are continuing to make a very significant and negative impact on the cost of living for both homeowners and tenants in Invermere, and an overall reduction in the quality of life here.

Along with the increase in long-term rental prices, and decrease in housing availability, STRs make it very difficult for local businesses to attract and retain workers. Long-time residents should question the soundness of these policies and if it will support a future for Invermere that is sustainable, inclusive and livable – and the high quality of life we’ve all worked hard to create and preserve.

To aid in this discussion, Invermere’s STR-related policy is in bold italics quotes, followed by their unintended consequences.

• “Not more than eight guests will be allowed to stay in an STR at any time.”

  “Not more than four bedrooms, and not more than two persons per bedroom, will be allowed in an STR.”

Who has any faith that this will be monitored, followed or controlled? And who will be paying for this exhaustive monitoring and enforcement process, 24/7/365, with holidays and overtime coverage? And the legal challenges that will inevitably come? Every resident in Invermere!

If you can attract and retain the personnel, proper full-time bylaw monitoring and enforcement will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Or, you will get the level of service that you pay for.

And based on all of the district’s consultants reports, as of 2021, we’re short about 185 to 195 homes for our 2021 workforce. Forget trying to grow the local economy with so much of our workforce housing tied up in commercial accommodation.

• “Not more than one business licence or TUP will be issued per STR owner.”

How can we know that business licences or TUPs won’t be split between spouses, kids, other family members, or numbered companies to get around this limitation? If you want to run a hotel, do it where they were previously, and currently, zoned downtown.

• “Noise monitoring system will be a licencing requirement for each STR unit.”

There are simple hacks available to trick these noise monitoring sensors, like covering it with a pillow case or other sound attenuating material. And do you think STR operators will turn a deaf ear to excessive guest noise, as they pocket lucrative profits? Sure they will.

The tiny penalties, if ever levied, will simply be a cost of doing business for the STR operators, and not a meaningful deterrent.

• “One dedicated off-street parking stall must be provided on-site for 1-4 guests in an STR, and two dedicated off-street parking stalls must be provided for 5-8 guests in the STR.”

• Off-site parking (i.e., parking of guests’ vehicles on the street) will not be permitted.

Just because these are minimum parking requirements doesn’t mean you won’t have situations where all eight guests (or more ‘visitors’) drive separately, or more ‘guests’ are ‘just visiting.’

If your neighbours have a party or reunion a couple of times a year, one usually won’t mind them parking in front of your house. In fact, you’ll probably offer your driveway or lawn for their guests to use. But when this happens every weekend with a revolving door of STR clients, the goodwill quickly evaporates.

If this is policy is adopted, it won’t be uncommon for a residence with four bedrooms and four vehicles suddenly has eight vehicles parked in front and around it, all bringing their coolers full of Kirkland Signature supplies.

Who has any faith that parking will be monitored, followed or controlled? And who will be paying the full cost of parking enforcement? Every resident in Invermere!

• No outdoor pool/s will be allowed in any STR operation unless permitted by TUP.

Once a TUP is approved, what is to stop a STR operator from installing a pool or other party amenity and making lucrative profits for the next three years? The pool will be paid for within the first summer, and then the property can be flipped, further driving up local residential real estate prices.

Face it. Invermere council has slept on this issue for so long they are trying to normalize the commercial take-over of our residential neighbourhoods. What started as people swapping homes while on vacation once a year, or occasionally renting out a room in their oversized house, has evolved and consolidated into larger and larger corporations. Council has done the very least they can and plan to leave STR issues for the neighbours to deal with.

So, end the foolishness now. Council needs to act in the interest of local residents, of voters, not corporations.

Follow the rest of the province which has made regulations that will restrict short-term rentals to principal residences and either a secondary suite or an accessory dwelling unit in many B.C. communities starting May 1. Some B.C. municipalities have even more stringent controls because they actually value their residents and the vibrancy they create.

Suddenly, and definitely after May 1, if this proposed bylaw is adopted those communities that put their residents and workforce first are looking much more livable.

R. Watmough, Invermere