Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Rob Shaw: BC NDP's short-term rental bill stays intact, passes without amendments

Opposition BC United warns of unintended consequences of sweeping legislation
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon pushed through the bill Thursday to crack down on short-term rentals despite warnings it was too broad in scope. | Mike Howell

You can add tents, glamping yurts, RVs, treehouses, farm worker barracks and resort-style time-share communities to the list of properties that won’t fall under B.C.’s new short-term rental ban, as the intricacies of B.C.’s already-complicated legislation got slowly flushed out during debate at the legislature.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon spent several days this week fielding questions on his legislation, which proposes to limit Airbnb-style rentals to people’s principal residences in most urban centres. The ultimate effect of the law will be to ban investment properties in many parts of the province from being rented for periods under 90 days.

“Does this act contemplate things like trailers or glamping facilities? How are those captured?” BC United critic Karin Kirkpatrick asked at one point during the debate.

“I had the most wonderful vacation a couple of years ago, where I was able to actually have an Airbnb on a boat, which would not have necessarily been someone's long-term residence.

“Have some of these other, more unusual kinds of listings on Airbnb and other platforms been anticipated?”

Kahlon echoed Premier David Eby in his answer, saying the goal is to only crack down on extra properties that investors could sell or rent out long-term to local tenants.

“The general principle we follow in these regulations is that we're focused on returning units that can be long-term housing to the market,” said Kahlon.

“So something like a tent or treehouse is not intended to be captured.” As debate went on, he added RVs, fishing lodges, strata tourism complexes and time-share resort developments to his running list of exemptions.

Those kind of nitty-gritty details dominated the debate — at least, where Kahlon could answer them. Many rules will be set later by cabinet regulations, including exact definitions of the structures captured, the fine amounts, the size of the province’s enforcement team, how data is shared, how fine revenue will be spent, and so on.

Many people support the BC NDP legislation. But those who stand to lose the ability to list their investment properties on short-term rental sites have been giving MLAs an earful through a digital letter-writing and email campaign, calling the changes unfair.

BC United tried to amend the legislation, to take into account some of those concerns.

“What we cannot support is legislation that doesn't take into account literally the thousands of emails and feedback that we've been receiving, this official opposition, that we tried to present in the forms of very common sense amendments that could have improved this legislation and made it supportable,” said leader Kevin Falcon.

The Opposition had four proposed changes, including allowing one property in addition to a person’s principal residence to be listed for short-term rental, lowering the definition of a short-term rental from 90 to 30 days, exempting people travelling for cancer treatments, and exempting entire cities during major events, such as FIFA 2026 in Vancouver, where there won’t be enough hotel rooms to meet demand.

Falcon cited feedback from nurses and doctors, who rely on Airbnb-style accommodations when travelling to a community for a short-term stay to backfill health care services. He also cited the film sector, which needs short-term accommodation for cast and crew who may only be in town for a few weeks to film.

“We genuinely were trying to say let's fix this and make sure we don't have unintended consequences,” said Falcon.

“And the amendments we put forward honestly, were heartfelt based on genuine feedback we were hearing from the film industry, from doctors, from nurses, from folks that really wanted to try and get this right.”

The NDP government saw no honesty in the proposals, though.

“Here they spend every day they have, every opportunity they have to drive a hole through to create loopholes for investors running private hotels in our province,” said Eby.

“We say 90 days, they say 30. They say, ‘Well, what about big events? We should do something about big events.’ …I would love to hear them say something at some point to support real people looking for a place to live, which our short-term rental legislation is going to do.”

The dismissal continued as the NDP introduced each of its amendments. Kahlon took particular umbrage at the proposal to allow one investment property per British Columbian to be listed for short-term rental.

“This suggestion that people can buy an investment property and use it for short-term rental is essentially the opposite of what we're trying to do here,” said Kahlon.

“I did refer to it as a loophole. I'll still refer to it as a loophole, which will allow investors to buy a property and put it on short-term rental when we're trying desperately to get more housing back into the housing market for long-term rental.”

Kirkpatrick tried to point out that some buildings in places like Victoria and Kelowna were purpose-built as short-term rentals, with micro units as small as 440-square feet that aren’t suited for long-term tenants. The NDP legislation will end the legal non-conforming status of those buildings.

“It’s not an ideal square footage for a lot of families, I get that,” said Kahlon. “But there are still people who are desperate for housing that could use housing, even if it’s 440 square feet.”

Time and time again, the New Democrats dismissed any suggestion the bill could be too broad.

“The large corporate hotels are going to be the biggest beneficiaries here, because you're going to find yourself having to go to Vancouver now, for example, and be facing $800 to $1,000 (per night) hotel rooms as a result of the very limited supply of other options,” said Falcon.

“And that's why we tried to bring in amendments to say let's just balance this out.”

BC United said the legislation should penalize the one per cent of Airbnb-style operators who generate 20 per cent of the listings and revenue due to their numerous properties. “There’s a small group that controls large blocks of housing,” said Falcon. “Those are the people that you want to go after.”

The NDP legislation is doing that, and then some. The wide sweep will capture everyone from a family with a downtown condo they sometimes use and sometimes rent to the most prolific Airbnb investors who run dozens of properties as if they own hotels.

In the end, the NDP majority shot down the BC United amendments.

The bill passed into law Thursday, by a vote of 51 to 23 — the NDP, two BC Green MLAs and the now-independent MLA for Parksville-Qualicum in support, while the BC United and the BC Conservatives lined up against.

“Homes are for people, not for investors who keep them out of reach for their own profit,” Eby posted on social media, minutes after Lt-Gov. Janet Austin gave royal assent to turn the bill into law.

“Thousands of short-term rentals will be turned into long-term housing for people in B.C.”

We’ll see if that happens. If the sweeping legislation has unintended consequences, the NDP won’t be able to say they weren’t warned.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 15 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio. [email protected]