Homes vs. Tourist Accommodations

According to AirDNA’s data, short-term rental units in Ucluelet rent for an average daily rate of $276. Given that the current bylaw allows up to three rooms to have B&B uses in a single-family dwelling, this represents a significant financial return, prompting an increasing number of new residential construction projects to be purpose-built with three B&B units. While the B&B use was traditionally meant to be secondary to the main purpose of residential dwellings, namely, to provide housing for Ucluelet’s residents and families, there has been an increase in purchasing of residential properties and lots for the express purpose of operating commercial-style tourist accommodations. Increasingly, the lucrative potential of these uses has resulted in buyers, including numbered companies and commercial Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), who are incentivized by the commercial potential of properties as opposed to traditional buyers looking for a home to live and work in Ucluelet. This in turn has pushed up the price of houses in Ucluelet, which reflects the potential return from short-term rentals. The Ucluelet Housing Needs Report found that these wealthy purchasers are contributing to rising costs throughout the West Coast, but most dramatically in Tofino and Ucluelet.

“I am an RN at the hospital, and I have lived in Ukee for 17 years. I have always thought I’d live here and buy property. But the way the housing is I fear I’ll have to leave town to buy a property.”
- Ucluelet Housing Needs Report Respondent

“I will probably have to leave the community. I have a well-paying job, but due to expenses rent, student loans, gas, groceries etc…. How can a single professional ever afford to live here if they did not come from money, or didn’t have debts prior to being here like student loans? I can barely afford rent, let alone a mortgage… I can barely put money away every month because I’m too worried about making ends meet.”
- Ucluelet Housing Needs Report Respondent

The Ucluelet Housing Needs Report found that accessing housing is becoming more difficult for everyone, not just those looking for rental units. Increasingly, community members with well-paying full time jobs are unable to afford the elevated cost of housing or are taking on debt they may be uncomfortable with. Adjusted for inflation, median dwelling prices in Ucluelet are up 101% since 2011. The median single-detached home sold for nearly $700,000 in Ucluelet in 2020. A comparison of incomes and dwellings for sale in 2015 and 2020 shows how the cost of housing has dramatically exceeded growth of incomes. In 2015, a first-time home buyer household with an income of $70,000 could likely afford the estimated mortgage of 57% of homes for sale across the West Coast. The same income could only afford 26% of dwellings sold in 2020. A household with an income of $100,000 could afford 68% of dwellings in 2015 and only 39% of dwellings in 2020.

BB Report pic

Many respondents to the Ucluelet Housing Needs Report were resigned to leaving Ucluelet in order to find stable housing or enter the ownership market. Some fill essential positions, and others had hoped to start and grow their families in the District. The rising cost of ownership and challenging rental market, driven in part by the commercialization of residential housing, is indisputably changing who gets to live in Ucluelet and who doesn’t.