Controversial Kelowna short-term rental rules going to public hearing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Controversial Kelowna short-term rental rules going to public hearing

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December 04, 2018 - 4:11 PM

KELOWNA - Kelowna city council is lining up one fractious public hearing after another for early 2019.

First up is the rezoning application for the controversial Agassiz supportive housing project with its own hearing on Jan. 17.

The supportive housing project hearing will be followed some time later by a package of bylaw and licencing changes to regulate short-term rentals throughout the city. That issue is already creating a split on council over how to balance competing desires of people who need a place to live and those wanting to earn extra money.

"Having continually heard about the difficulty in finding a place to live in our city, that (protecting rental housing stock) is first and foremost, we have people from our community that have a hard time finding a place to live," Mayor Colin Basran said during the Monday, Dec. 3, council debate on the regulations.

That’s why city staff is recommending no short-term rentals — through Airbnb and similar services — be allowed in any of the 1,650 known rental suites and carriage houses in the city.

Coun. Ryan Donn voted against the proposed changes saying they’re too restrictive. He was joined by Coun. Charlie Hodge who argued they might hurt student rentals if landlords aren’t allowed to rent to tourists during the four months UBC Okanagan is out each summer.

Coun. Maxine DeHart excused herself from the lengthy discussion because she works for a hotel so only six of those on the nine-member council voted in support of bringing the proposed changes forward.

The rules, if passed, will only allow property owners to rent out bedrooms in the home where they live or the entire home for undefined “short periods when they are away.”

That term sparked some confusion after Coun. Luke Stack asked for a more precise definition of what short term meant, wondering if someone who was working away for a year would be considered short term. Staff did not answer that question.

The proposed rules stipulate that any single booking can be for no more than 29 consecutive days.

One thing that seemed to be unanimously agreed upon was that some regulations are required.

Community Planning supervisor Laura Bentley told council that even though short-term rentals are not allowed in residential zones, there was a 69 per cent increase in the number of listings between last winter and spring, climbing to 1,979 listings from 1,172. Median rents climbed to $220 a night in April from $190 a night in November 2017.

Councillors also expressed concern about the $345 cost of licences for such businesses as some cities charge much less in an effort to have more owners register their suites.

Bentley explained that Kelowna’s higher rate was meant to cover the costs of enforcing the rules, including hiring an outside contractor to monitor the operators for compliance.

“Should the average taxpayer subsidize someone who wants to run an accommodation business out of their homes?” Basran asked. “To me, the answer is no. The ones creating these costs, they are the ones who should pay them. Yes, this may push this underground, which is why we’ll do a review in two years.”

Rules will be different for properties in zones that allow tourist accommodation and a special subzone is proposed for some Sunset Drive properties that already allow short-term rentals.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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