FORT ST. JOHN -- The City of Fort St. John is moving to opt-out of the province’s Short Term Rental Accommodations Act.

The act, first introduced in October of 2023, required municipalities to address the province’s housing crisis by regulating supply in order to create more affordable long-term rentals.

It would also force short-term rental operators to apply for a business license, demand that the rental be the principal residence of the host, and have the city impose fines for non-compliance.

In a letter to the Minister of Housing, Fort St. John’s Mayor Lilia Hansen called on Ravi Kahlon to consider the economic drivers of short-term rentals in northern communities, compared to its counterparts in metropolitan areas of British Columbia.

“Here these rentals do not serve the tourism industry or provide alternatives to hotel accommodation,” said Hansen.

She says that short-term rentals help bolster the city’s industrial sector by providing workers places to stay outside of hotels and work camps.

“The availability of these rentals allows many economically vital projects to be viable,” said Hansen.

To opt-out of the legislation, council must provide a copy of a decision that shows vacancy rates in the city to be no lower than three per cent over the past two years.

Latest numbers from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation show vacancy rates in Fort St. John sit at 5.7 per cent.

In 2022, vacancy rates for townhouses and apartments in the city were at 9.7 per cent.

In her letter, Hansen provided alternative solutions to the housing crisis, citing a need for supports for low-income tenants and income security for landlords.

“What may be worth considering as a possible solution would be a Provincial Government program which would provide security for marginally qualified tenants to provide landlords with income certainty, and security that their accommodations would be secure in the event of damage or adverse behaviour,” said Hansen.

Council has until February 29th to make a decision, and request a formal opt-out that will need to approved by the Ministry of Housing.