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How a P.E.I. village found its solution for short-term vacation rentals

As tourist rentals continue to have an impact on the availability of long-term housing in Charlottetown, the village of Victoria-by-the-Sea, P.E.I. says it’s found the solution to vacant, investment properties in the area.

“Before we brought in this bylaw in 2014, we did notice a trend of people … wanting to purchase property here and use that popularity of our village to rent places [out],” said Hilary Price, CAO of Victoria-by-the-Sea.

Price said that trend was perpetuated by buyers who weren’t necessarily interested in living in the village themselves, but wanting to use the properties as short-term rentals, through services like Airbnb or VRBO.

“You can’t legislate people living here full time but [we] wanted to make plans and policies that would encourage people to come and live here.”

Encouraging residential living

In 2014, village officials introduced a zoning & subdivision control bylaw that works with their official plan.

Under the bylaw, property owners in the village have to go through an approval process to run businesses.

If owners want to run a vacation rental, only bed and breakfasts and hotels are allowed; the types of property that encourage residential living, according to Price.

“We recognize people want to stay here but we wanted to encourage people like bed and breakfasts and hotels, where people live there as well as providing tourism accommodation,” she said.

Village CAO Hilary Price, left and mayor Ben Smith look over the zoning bylaw that was added to the official plan four years ago. Price says the bylaw was designed to encourage residents to actually live in the village and create a sense of community.(Nicole Williams/CBC)

“We didn’t want to provide tourist accommodations from people that have just purchased houses and don’t live here and don’t have a sense of community.”

Houses can still be purchased as vacation rental properties, but under the bylaw, it has to be rented out for a minimum stay of a month.

Price said the intention wasn’t to single out Airbnb or VRBO, but rather focus on encouraging people to live in Victoria and maintain its sense of community.

“Rural communities are losing people. We wanted to buck that trend and try and get people to come here.”

More full-time residents

Since they introduced the bylaw in 2014, Price said they haven’t had anyone apply for tourist accommodations and that the number of residents living in the village has increased.

“In the two subdivisions, we’re now selling quite a bit of property,” she said.

Price said there are still many seasonal residents living in the village and the cost of housing is high, which can price out younger families hoping to move to the area.

She says that it’s not a blanket solution for every municipality and the reason the bylaw works for Victoria is because the village is so small.

Price added that because of good planning more people are actually living there and there are fewer vacant houses.

Becoming part of the community

Casper Geurts moved to Victoria from Holland with his family a few years ago. They now live in the village full time where they also operate seasonal cottage rentals.

“We have two kids. We need a bit more money than just the average so we started the business.”

Casper Geurts moved with his family from Holland to Victoria, P.E.I. in 2013. Since then, his family has started a cottage business in the village’s commercial zone.(Nicole Williams/CBC)

Geurts said it was ideal for him to live and work in Victoria, and that he’s made efforts to become a member of the community.

“I think it’s important if you want to establish yourself, you should integrate and you should talk with everybody. You should help people.”

Susan Oxley, a stain glass artist who moved to Victoria from Ontario four years ago, also operates a business out of her home in the village’s core.

She lives there year-round and said she’s hoping to become more involved in the village, and has put in her name to become a councillor.

“The village is your family … everyone comes together when needed,” she said.

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