Kelowna council pumps the brakes on short term rental rules - InfoNews

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Kelowna council pumps the brakes on short term rental rules

More than 200 people overflowed Kelowna City Council chambers to protest a proposed ban on renting suites and carriage houses to tourists
March 13, 2019 - 7:54 AM

KELOWNA - After sitting through roughly five hours of public criticism, Kelowna city council is delaying new rules on short term rentals and will consider allowing basement suites and carriage houses to be rented to tourists.

Dozens of owners assailed council with stories of why the changes should be made as they spoke at a public hearing that started at 6 p.m. yesterday, March 12 and continued until well past midnight today. It attracted well over 200 people who overflowed council chambers.

They were so persuasive that Mayor Colin Basran was swayed from his strong opposition to that part of the regulations.

The hearing was held as part of the process to put regulations in place to licence and control on-line rental of rooms, suites and full homes to tourists – something that is technically illegal now but is being done by some 2,000 residents.

“I have heard from many, many people, who are low to moderate earners in our community, who are residents in our community, who say ‘we can’t find places to live,’” Basran said after all the presentations were made. “The pressure and the emotion you get from those people is immense and it was one of the reasons I felt we needed to do something. When the vacancy rate is zero and you see that people in our own community can’t find places to live, yet other people have places to live that they’re utilizing for people that don’t live here, I struggle with that.”

The city's rental vacancy rate was 0.2 per cent when work started on drafting the regulations in 2017. It climbed to 1.9 per cent last year but isn't considered healthy until it's between three and five per cent.

The city’s idea was to keep basement suites and carriage houses as lower-rent options for full-time residents. The city’s Community Planning Supervisor, Laura Bentley, told council such suites rent for about $1,100 per month versus an average of $220 per night as a tourist rental.

City of Kelowna planner Laura Bentley outlined proposed regulations for short term rentals at a packed public hearing last night.
City of Kelowna planner Laura Bentley outlined proposed regulations for short term rentals at a packed public hearing last night.

But, many of the people who spoke at the hearing told stories about why their suites should be allowed in the rental pool.

The first speaker was a man who has a house near Kelowna General Hospital. He has a separate suite that he rents out to patients, hospital visitors and doctors on a nightly basis but also has family staying for a couple of weeks at a time, so it will never be a long term rental.

Others complained about long term tenants being difficult to evict if they cause problems and the need to supplement their incomes to be able to afford to live in Kelowna.

"I’ve shifted,” Basran said. “They have put a compelling argument forward. I’m open to discussing having short term rentals in those units.”

Because provincial legislation limits what a council can do to change bylaws that have gone to public hearing, council decided to pass the regulations as presented but directed staff to bring back amendments to allow the short term rental of suites and carriage houses.

Bentley told council that will take a few weeks so that won’t go back to council until April, followed by another public hearing.

Earlier in the evening, she had told council she hoped to have the new rules in place in early April.

While he’s willing to consider the change, Basran said he was saddened by the messages delivered by some of the speakers.

“There have been a lot of broad generalizations here and I know many of the people who have spoken tonight and I know they care,” he said. “But, I get a little disheartened when they say that it’s the government’s job to provide affordable housing. This isn’t just a government’s problem to fix. This is a societal problem to fix.

“The basis for these regulations was always about trying to help people in our community who weren’t able to find homes. So, when I hear, 'oh it’s about the money or it's about trying to appease the hotel and motel association', I know that’s not what we were striving for.”

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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