LETTER: General approvals open the door to short-term rentals

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Once upon a time, a charming heritage home located on a double lot on St. Patrick Street in the Oak Bay District. The family who bought this old house consisted of two young professionals who testified that they loved the old house as much as the previous owners who had lived there happily for many years. After living in the house for a short time, the new owners decided they really wanted a more modern house. So the district gave approval to move the house to McNeill Bay and take it on a barge to a new location.

The district also gave approval to build a 10-meter-tall monster house on two lots. Construction began in 2019 and was completed in 18 months. The neighborhood watched in awe as the heavy equipment worked to dig the very deep underground. The neighbors wondered why the family needed such a big house. Their response was that it was their dream home.

Suddenly, in July 2021, an Airbnb online listing showed a new basement suite on St. Patrick Street in Oak Bay. How did this sequel magically appear? Was it on approved district plans? No. Has it been inspected? No. And strangers began to arrive and depart regularly. Shortly after, an additional Airbnb listing appeared for the whole house. The family left the “dream house” to allow complete strangers to rent it. The neighbors were alarmed. Our quiet, laid-back neighborhood has been overrun by strangers – during a pandemic, no less. Has the district issued a permit to allow this? Nope! How could this have happened?

Several neighbors banded together in March 2022 to comply with the policy of two formal written complaints to allow the district to act. It has been done. Complainants were advised that enforcement would use the principles of education and cooperation to achieve voluntary compliance. Good luck with that!

The St. Patrick’s Street Airbnb remains in operation to this day. Now we know why they wanted such a big house. This is basically an illegal short term rental business operating within our community.

Lesson learned. Remember, when the district gives blanket approval for secondary suites in Oak Bay, one can only imagine the chaos that ensues.

Kate and Paul Wickens – Jobling

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