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Kelowna to measure Airbnb and its effect on local market

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April 01, 2016 - 4:30 PM


KELOWNA - Airbnb may be flying high in some communities but it’s mostly flying below the radar in Kelowna.

“We’re well aware of it. We don't get a whole lot of complaints about Airbnb but it does happen,” says Kelowna’s community planning manager Ryan Smith.

The popular accommodation website has made it easy for anyone with a spare bedroom to start renting it out, but along with its rise have come horror stories of bad guests trashing their rooms.

And critics have trashed Airbnb for taking business away from hotels and motels while also reducing rental housing stock.

By Smith's own estimation, after spending hours on Airbnb’s website, the Central Okanagan has about 400 accommodation listings, of which 250 are within Kelowna’s boundaries.

But short-term rentals in Kelowna — defined as anything less than 30 days — are illegal, with the exception of some high-rise buildings and single-family homes where the owner has obtained a bed and breakfast license.

“We do get complaints but it’s usually from where it’s actually allowed,” Smith says, that is if the building's strata council hasn’t banned the practice.

Kelowna’s vacancy rate is hanging at about 1.5 per cent and best estimates are there is 13,000 rental units available in Kelowna, Smith says.

“With that amount, 250 units is not really a game changer although it doesn’t help,” he says.

Still, staff are taking the issue seriously, Smith says, gathering information about best practices in other jurisdictions to put before city council, likely by early fall.

“Council may be sensitive to the rental issue and want to take action,” Smith says.

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