Salt Spring Housing Crisis explained

Is Salt Spring in the middle of a housing crisis?  It all depends on who you talk to and what one defines as a crisis.

If you move to Salt Spring and have limited funds and are looking to rent a home at about $2000 per month you are probably out of luck.  There are basically no homes to rent on Salt Spring Island at this time and not just because it’s the usual summer madness.

If you are looking at buying a home there are about 60 homes for sale on Salt Spring at prices from 750k up to 6 million or so and in each price range, there is a fairly good selection of homes for sale and there really is no crisis if you have the means.

So instead of calling it a housing crisis on Salt Spring let’s just call it a rental housing crisis.  Can we all agree on that?

Why are there no rental homes for sale at this time? The scapegoat for the last year or so has been the short-term vacation rental homes (STVR).  As a point of full disclosure, I do not own and or operate an STRV but are they the real culprit to all those who post ads on the community list looking for a home to rent? I just checked Air B&B and there are at least 200 or so listings for Salt Spring Island.  However, some are tents, trailers, teepees, and rooms in homes.  One would really have to look very closely at every ad and see if it’s a legal B&B suite or a full-size home known as an STVR home and which by the way is illegal according to our land use bylaw here is the definition of a legal B&B;

3.13.8 Bed and Breakfast home-based businesses are subject to the following additional
(1) Not more than 1 bed and breakfast home-based business is permitted on
any lot.
BL461 (05/13) (2) Despite Subsection 3.13.1, all bedrooms used to accommodate guests
must be located only within a principal dwelling unit or within a seasonal
cottage, if one is permitted on the lot.
(3) Not more than 3 bedrooms may be used to accommodate guests on lots
that are 1.2 ha or less in the area; not more than 4 bedrooms may be used to
accommodate guests on lots that are greater than 1.2 ha in area.
(4) Despite Subsection 3.13.2, the total floor area dedicated primarily to the
accommodation of guests on any lot, including bedrooms, ensuite
bathrooms, closets and common areas is not to exceed 50 percent of
the total floor area of the single-family dwelling and seasonal cottage on
the lot, up to a maximum of 100 square metres.
Information Note: Under a General Order of the Land Reserve
Commission, bed and breakfast home-based businesses within the ALR are
restricted to three bedrooms that must be fully contained within a single-family
dwelling. The use of further bedrooms will require an application to the
Commission and its written approval.
(5) Breakfast meals only may be provided to bed and breakfast guests who
have been provided with overnight accommodation.
(6) Off-street parking for bed and breakfast home-based business uses must
be supplied as outlined in Part 7 and screened from view from abutting
lots, highways or parks by a landscape screen.
(7) Despite Section 6.1, signs for bed and breakfast home-based businesses
may be indirectly illuminated by a non-flashing light source, external to
the sign. Where illumination is provided, it must consist of a maximum
150 watt PAR lamp mounted between 1 and 1.5 meters from each sign

About 10 years ago I owned and operated a legal B&B and did so for a few years and it was lots of fun.  Every year on Salt Spring there are about 70 legal B&B with about 10 closing and 10 new ones opening every year.   So back to the STVR homes, if you really count hard you could probably come up with 100 or so on the island that are illegal and theoretically could be rented out.

Do you really think having 100 homes in the STVR grey rental pool is really making such a difference and if they were all rented out full time would be the end of the rental crisis on Salt Spring? The answer is NO.

The rental shortage or crisis is not caused by the STVR on Salt Spring.  It’s caused because the island construction industry is booming.  In 2012, just 10 years ago I was a landlord on Salt Spring and owned a rental home and had a hard time finding tenants.  On Jan 1st, 2012 there were over 100 homes posted for rent on the community list.  At that time the construction industry on Salt Spring probably had less than 100 people working in it.  There were very few homes being built.  Who would build on an island that had 350 homes for sale at rock-bottom prices? Apparently, no one would.

Now, here we are in the summer of 2018 and Salt Spring is booming with construction.  Just try and call an electrician and ask them how long it would take them to come over to your home and put in a new plug? They would laugh.  They do not have the time they are too busy with all the new homes going up.  Or call a plumber and see if they will even answer the phone.   At this time on Salt Spring I do suspect that there are over 1000 people working in the construction industry on this island.  They all have to live somewhere and what do you think younger carpenters, plumbers, and electricians do for housing? Some rent but lots buy.  Do they buy waterfront homes? No, they buy up all the lower-end homes and renovate them over time.  Once the housing resale market came back to life in 2015 the tradespeople moved back to Salt Spring from places like Edmonton and Calgary.   This is why there is a housing crisis or rental shortage on Salt Spring.

When will the rental shortage on Salt Spring be over? When the construction slows down, maybe a year or two or three or four years from now.  It always does just end like every boom they do come to an end at some point.

Yes the STVR homes a grey area and some do not like it, I know I would not want to live beside a party home but then again all those tourists are keeping our market vendors, restaurants, and stores hopping all summer long.

2012 was not a fun time on the island, the island was facing stagnation and for some, it looked like we were never going to get out of the depressed state we were in.  Now it’s booming and some are not happy, but would they be happy renting in 2012 when there were no jobs on the island.

If you would like to read about the economics of a rental home see this post.

Feel free to comment below.


Scott & June Simmons
The Salt Spring Team

2 thoughts on “Salt Spring Housing Crisis explained”

  1. I read your article on rentals in “salt spring island crisis explained”published july 2018.
    Have you done recent update to this. What is it like now?

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