Housing shortages are a problem in the Kootenays and across BC. Tens, if not hundreds, of folks throughout the West Kootenay are sleeping in cars, living in campers or tents and are fruitlessly posting “in search of” ads hoping to find a place to call home.
While towns are talking about increasing the number of affordable units for rentals, these solutions may take years to implement.
In the meantime, I see very little acknowledgement of a significant and possible fixable barrier to long-term housing stocks: Air BnBs and temporary rentals. If you look up what is available around Castlegar, Nelson and Trail on the Air BnB site, you may be surprised to find almost 300 listings, suites and rooms that are rented by the night only, but that could be a long-term home for many people.
Though these listing may frankly be weighted to Nelson, severe housing shortages in one West Kootenay community means an overflow of people seeking rentals in neighboring towns. To paraphrase Donne, no Kootenay town is an island, folks.
I understand the motives for home owners renting their secondary suites for $100+ per night, potentially doubling monthly income and providing greater flexibility for use of their space. However, home owner benefits come at a cost to the broader community. Homelessness, insecure housing and the departure of talented and capable folks who could not find housing here negatively affect our potential and livability as a region.
The rise of Air BnBs and temp housing for visitors and shut downs at Teck and Celgar is undoubtedly the elephant in the room when we talk about why there are so many people struggling to find rent and so few places to live.
Other jurisdictions like Ottawa and Vancouver have implemented policies to move many Air BnB and temp suites to the long-term rental market. Could we do that in the Kootenays?
Or even better, especially since many suites are outside municipal boundaries, if you are running an Air BnB in your suite or second home, don’t wait for rules to force change, just please consider adding your nightly rental space to the long-term rental inventory. What would it take for you to make that change?
Let’s figure out a way to encourage the owners of short-term rentals to shift to longer-term tenants and build neighbourhoods for all, not vacations for a few.