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General News · 11th September 2018
De Clarke
I was responding to the comment thread on the Bylaw Not Acceptable Yet article, and my comment got out of hand :-) So, with apologies for such active posting, I'd like to add some afterthoughts.

To be fair rather than narrowly polemical, I should note that one can make a case for AirBnB activity itself being in conflict with the goal of providing secure local housing for those not affluent enough to purchase property in our inflated market. ABnB fees are usually higher than regular residential rental, so property owners would be motivated to kick out local tenants for the summer (already a major problem here) in order to realise higher income from ABnB during the season.

This is a good point and causes me to wonder whether I can really claim with any confidence that ABnB is net-positive. I will have to be a bit more agnostic on this question: really not sure. Vexing question.

However, I'm even more doubtful that a blanket ban on short term rentals, year round, will address the problem. We could argue that by outlawing ABnB we might discourage people from building rental units at all, which means less rental housing available in the winter (when we need it even more because of the inclement weather). We could argue that some people would participate in ABnB (which is neat, tidy, and low-risk compared to "real" rental management) who would not want longer-term tenants or the responsibilities of landlordship, so that their participation would not affect the bigger picture of housing for locals. Blanket bans in my experience are generally a sledgehammer taken to a job that really requires a set of feeler gauges and a lot of patience.

Some folks probably question why we should worry about providing housing at all, for people who can't afford to purchase. If you can't afford to live here, some say, then don't try to live here. But (aside from an elitism & exclusivity which troubles me) they are losing sight of another important piece of the economic puzzle: most island jobs don't pay enough for workers to save enough to buy property in this grossly inflated real estate bubble. As Bill has pointed out, local businesses can't attract and retain a workforce for the summer if there's nowhere for that workforce to live.

Most local businesses don't have the wherewithal to build their own cabins or barracks for all their seasonal labour. And unlike some chi-chi resorts and segregated neighbourhoods in this world, our 2-ferry location means we can't just bus in the workers every morning and bus them out again every evening :-)

So if we want to support our summer tourism industry and adjust our casual (and skilled) workforce on the usual annual cycle, we need to find decent housing for those seasonal workers. Failing to do so puts yet another roadblock in the way of that goal of a local economy, of bringing income to the island, providing jobs for locals & opportunities for new ventures, etc.

If I may be permitted a little more polemic in support of my own vision of Cortes... I suspect that a few among us, maybe, wouldn't mind so much if all local industry/commerce failed and Cortes became just another Hernando - a "gated suburb" for mostly older, affluent people, with no commercial activity at all, very little diversity, etc. But that's a position I disagree with on so many counts that I would hardly know where to begin :-)

Hernando Island is not my ideal by a long shot. I would grieve to see Cortes become CortesLand(TM), a luxury executive retirement theme park. Chacun a son gout, but it's not what I came here for! There are large-scale historical forces (not just individuals) pushing us in that direction. I think we should push back, and defend our potential as a functional out-island community: farms, fishery, woodlots, visitors and villagers in synergy.

The way things are going, there may come a time when a chunk of the population of BC migrates back towards the coast. It would be nice if we were ready to grow and change with changing times, rather than ready to raise the drawbridge and boil the oil. My $0.02 of course. Your crystal ball may read differently.
Lack of land causes substance abuse?
Comment by Heather Bruce on 12th September 2018
Hi, Ian,

I am wondering if I'm reading this right....Are you saying that the substance abuse is *caused* by the lack of available land? I keep thinking that I must be misreading this.

Reply to Catriona RE: airbnb rentals
Comment by sue vican on 12th September 2018

Do you airbnb rent? No "dark side" here IMHO. Let's get informed....does anyone know how to set up a poll for vacation renters to weigh in on whether they'd make their homes available for year round rental if airbnb renting were to be banned? I would guess that many would not for various reasons.

I for one would not rent my Cortes house out year round if I was prohibited from vacation renting. Here are the reasons in my case: 1) then I couldn't use my own beach house when I visited the island (so why own it?), 2) the house is not suitable for year round rental having no source of heat besides the small wood stove, no winter water supply, and a driveway that would be ruined by daily use during the rainy season. When my parents bought this home in the 1980's, it was just an unfinished shell. They spent the next several long summers investing their sweat equity into making it habitable for summer use but they didn't make it habitable for winter use because they never planned to spend winters on Cortes...its a summer home. One of the great things about Cortes at that time was that no one was trying to tell other people what they could and could not do on their own property...let's please keep it that way!

If vacation renting were banned, I would not have vacation rental income to hire locals to maintain and improve my property, and my vacation renting guests would not bring their tourist dollars to the island which benefit many on the island. I would defer most my maintenance and do no improvements without the vacation rental income to pay for this.

Looking at Tideline notices, this time of year right now when the tourist season ends, businesses are either cutting back hours or closing until late spring, evidencing the impact of tourism on businesses and jobs......The tourists don't all stay at Hollyhock, Gorge Marina or the one motel on island....many stay in vacation rentals. Tourist dollars reverberate through the local economy, benefiting many.

If voters decide to ban vacation renting, or discriminate against certain classes of property owners like non-year round residents or foreigners, you might drive some of us off the island, but then someone else would buy our properties with no guarantee of making them available as affordable year round generate more year round rentals, what you really need are more high paying jobs, and that means development, which would change the character of the island.

I do have a year round cabin available for rent right now & its available long-term. We have invested a lot of money into improving this cabin, again mostly coming from the vacation rental income on our main house. Interested parties can contact me.
Why doesn't SRD pay for these extras?
Comment by Stephen Moyse on 12th September 2018
I am perfectly happy to pay these small increases, but I must admit I don't exactly see why they aren't already paid for by the regional government?
Comment by ian king on 12th September 2018
Hernando was bought privately and formed as a coop by savoury land owners where lots are 50x100 ft on average. Just saying that there is no comparison to what has been going on with cortes for quite a while. island workers have very little to strive for as land, never mind rentals are out of reach and have lead to substance abuse issues among the younger adults. there has been a long run of the older crowd who i refer to as the draw bridge attitude who really have no other interest than to try to keep their property values high while complaining that they can't find anyone willing to work that have continually stale mated anything affordable to happen. I guess you could call hernando a gated community but the current concept was created in the 70's.
well put
Comment by De Clarke on 11th September 2018
Well said Catriona. Thank you for telling this housing story from the renter's point of view, and with such clarity. This "dark side" of the vacation rental cycle needs to be aired. There must be some solution to this problem... If I were BC government, I think I would offer landlords in vacation destination areas who rent to year-round tenants (at a reasonable rate, not slumlords or gougers) a break on their property tax :-) since they are doing a public service by providing reliable local housing.

We offer people tax break incentives for all kinds of beneficial decisions like buying a hybrid or electric car, installing solar panels etc. Maybe it would make sense to reward those who help to keep our community stably housed? People are always complaining about their prop taxes, so maybe that would motivate them to let tenants stay year round?

The proposed expansion of housing in Mansons might go far to correcting this problem, if some or even most units are reserved as rentals. I'm not engaged with that effort, so I don't know much about it - except that whatever it ends up being, is still a few years away... and we have a problem right now.
Air BnB
Comment by Catriona Vega on 11th September 2018
Thank-you for finally commenting on the drawbacks of Air BnB/short term rentals in terms of prohibiting year-round rental availability. It seems to me a major problem that squeezes many families and year-round and seasonal workers off the island. Even affordable housing is unattainable to buy for most people who do not already have assets. We are in one of the very last year-round rentals, holding our breaths that we will be able to continue living on Cortes and not be squeezed out. To have a vital, thriving, multi-aged community you need affordable year-round rentals. It is not feasible to have to camp for four months every year and hope you can even find another rental in the fall. This has felt like an unspoken dark side of the issue of short-term vacation rentals/Air BnB.