Whitehorse Daily Star

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Kristina Craig and Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu

Short-term rentals spur considerable debate

City of Whitehorse officials twisted themselves into the proverbial Gordian Knot on Monday evening over the question of how to regulate short-term rentals – or whether the market should be regulated at all.

By Whitehorse Star on February 27, 2024

City of Whitehorse officials twisted themselves into the proverbial Gordian Knot on Monday evening over the question of how to regulate short-term rentals – or whether the market should be regulated at all.

That was just one of the subjects debated during a marathon 5 1/2-hour regular council meeting that began to resemble the classic Eagles song Hotel California – particularly that haunting line, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

During the meeting, the city heard from delegates about the rentals – and also spent more than an hour debating it later in the session.

The city’s housing and land development advisory committee has put several recommendations before council intended to expand access to long-term housing.

On Feb. 19, council agreed to have city staff do further research into the impacts of short-term rentals here and the committee’s recommendations.

The study is expected to cost about $30,000 – and may take nine months or longer to complete.

Instead of using the regular bylaw engagement process, the city will do a “deep dive” with stakeholders led by a consultant, along with public input.

A decision would likely not be made by council until early 2025, when a new council will be in place after the coming October’s election.

To aid in access to housing, the committee has recommended:

• Ensuring short-term rentals meet basic health and safety requirements to obtain a business licence;

• Limiting how many short-term rentals an owner may have per property; and

• Limiting how many short-term rentals are in an area.

One of the first delegates to speak Monday was Kristina Craig, from the Yukon Anti-Poverty coalition.

Craig told council its committee studying the issue has “done the work” that should allow the city to immediately draft legislation for changes to the bylaw.

“This will help build bylaws that are common-sense.”

Craig added the proposed changes would give the city the tools it needs to manage short-term rentals.

There are parts in those recommendations that are pretty straight-forward, she added.

The coalition is mostly in support of the recommendations of the committee, Craig said.

She added it would be a “missed opportunity” not to follow the committee’s recommendations.

“Now is the time to get working on drafting the corresponding bylaw changes,” Craig added.

Coun. Ted Laking, among others, recommended a careful approach to the subject.

He noted that RCMP and medical services personnel are key users of short-term rentals, and any hasty decisions would be akin to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

There is a place for these kind of rentals in the city, Laking added.

“It’s a more efficient way for them to staff a travelling nurse rather than take a long-term rental off the market when it might sit empty for much of the time,” he pointed out.

“I wouldn't want to unintentionally push the RCMP and hospital services into long-term rental, and it ends up accidentally taking long-term rentals off the market.”

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu echoed some of those comments.

Clarity is needed on what part of regulating the market the city should tackle and what should be under the control of the Yukon government, she said – and not assuming the city has to have control over the whole market segment.

“I think we might be jumping into this too early,” Curteanu said, recommending in favour of a study before making any decisions.

“We want to be fair to the short-term rental market as well as the needs of long-term rentals.”

Coun. Dan Boyd agreed with that, saying the committee’s recommendations didn’t call for immediate action.

“Somebody’s going to have to do a lot of research,” he said.

Coun. Michelle Friesen had provided an alternate motion suggesting the process be sped up.

Ultimately, council decided to send the matter back to administration for more consideration and to carry out a study on the matter.

Friesen said she had hoped for a faster timeline for the issue, but would support the motion as it stood.

Comments (9)

Up 1 Down 1

Sarah Davison on Mar 4, 2024 at 5:48 pm

The solution is to lift rent controls. People are doing short-term lets to avoid rent controls which reduced the rental stock causing rents to soar. Many Whitehorse landlords sold and reinvested in Alberta instead. A lot of people made that choice. Others went AirBnB. Higher rents following rent control is a predictable as night follows day. Argentina just lifted rent controls, rents dropped 20 percent in two months reducing hyper inflation. Ranj Pillai and Kate White introduced rent control as a quick and easy vote getter. Renters, especially poor renters, have paid the price. Rents were already high, now they are unmanageable for most people.

Up 0 Down 0

Navi on Mar 3, 2024 at 6:36 pm

I have yet to hear any thoughtful reasoning as to how regulating short-term rentals will benefit the long-term rental or homeownership markets. To think many would be rented long-term, and at affordable rates is laughable.

They will sit empty, or they will be sold.

The arguments of YAPC and SAH are great political distractions that serve their agendas but do not hold up to the slightest scrutiny.

Up 0 Down 0

Yukoner on Mar 2, 2024 at 11:53 pm

Devon, if YTG or the CoW sold the lots for pennies, the homes would still cost 600k+ because there's buyers who are willing to pay for that. Then instead of government collecting that money, it would go into developers pockets, and us tax payers would still need to come up with the millions that they're no longer getting from property sales.

Up 25 Down 3

Devon on Feb 29, 2024 at 8:42 pm

If the city sold lots for say cost plus 10% instead of the stupid amounts they do now houses wouldn't need to be sold for 600k+, they still make money just less, and once the market gets a larger number of units in a number of years up the % to 15 or 20 or as costs and inflation dictate

Up 34 Down 8

YT on Feb 29, 2024 at 12:15 pm

So your solution to the problem is legislate what property owners can and cannot do with THEIR property? Thanks for illustrating my assertion re the government offloading affordable housing provision onto private citizens.
And with respect to the climate not being very conducive to building apartments as an investment for the past 20 years, how about as a solution, government makes it conducive? Changing the legislation to make renting more difficult isn’t the answer.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the challenge wasn’t finding a good place to rent, it was keeping your tenants, and that was because of supply and demand. There was lots of supply so landlords worked to keep tenants satisfied, whether that was low rents, keeping the units updated and well kept , whatever. Supply and demand.
Landlords have chosen short term rentals for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is not being stuck with tenants that trash your investment. Legislating what property owners can do with their own properties isn’t a solution, as most will simply sell for the maximum profit they can as opposed to getting into the gamble of long term tentals.
Re maximizing profit when one sells, that’s not illegal, it’s investment. If I say turn around and sell one of my houses for what I paid for it in order to give someone “a break”, what do you think that person would do? They’d turn around, sell it and pocket the profit themselves.

Up 72 Down 11

John on Feb 28, 2024 at 12:54 pm

I am sorry, but the CofW interference in a lawful business is neither their role nor responsibility - the same holds true of any government. For you to tinker with bylaws modify or shut down short term rentals that you will not be permitting, in part of in whole, an owner's right to short term rentals is another attempt of undermining the basic tenements of the right to own and operate a business to make a living.

Frankly if homeowners wish to proceed with these ventures seasonally that is their choice. For you to oppose these opportunities for political purposes forcing folks out of these ventures is wrong. Between the City and YTG you have already interfered in the rental market to the point of having fewer units available. Now compound these inane policies you want "to go after" short term really is nothing more than socialism at its worse. Me - you take away my short term I will never open it up to a long term rental. I would hazard to guess that will be the same for most if not all you are targeting. Leave well enough alone.

Up 37 Down 18

Johnson on Feb 28, 2024 at 8:57 am

@ YT - builders and investors haven't seen rental units as a good investments for twenty years. When did somebody last build an apartment building in this town?

Embarrassing for Ted Laking to just parrot talking points from Neighbourly North management. He's worried that people using STRs would rent long term instead and take up units? Where does he think the short term units came from and where would they go if they left that market? What a schill.

You want to solve the rental problem? There's 212 units that could be put back on the market tomorrow. Imagine what that would do for prices.

Up 71 Down 26

comen sense on Feb 27, 2024 at 4:39 pm


Up 172 Down 17

YT on Feb 27, 2024 at 1:43 pm

Various agencies and political parties are trying to offload the burden of low income housing onto private citizens.
Buying a dwelling unit is an investment. And how the owner chooses to use that investment is up to them. The government, at the NDPs request, has changed the legislation in such a manner that short term rentals are more appealing than long. This is the law of unintended consequences at work. And now, because of this, the NDP is driving the agenda to regulate short term rentals, a situation the NDP helped create. Remember when the NDP wanted rent hikes tied to inflation? Then inflation increased? Yeah, the law of unintended consequences at work.
Create an environment where builders and investors see rental units as a good investment and the market will adjust.

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