Look to Vancouver, Victoria for short-term rental regulation model in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Look to Vancouver, Victoria for short-term rental regulation model in Kelowna

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July 18, 2018 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - There’s well over a 1,000 short-term rental properties in Kelowna, most of them advertised on websites such as AirBnB and most of them are legally prohibited.

But what exactly the city should do about them is complicated, as revealed during public engagement late in 2017.

While not statistically significant, the 2,600 business owners and residents who shared their thoughts showed a diversity of opinions.

Two-thirds had stayed in a short-term rental before, while 20 per cent had listed a short-term rental unit themselves, in the last 12 months.

Almost three-quarters agreed strongly that short-term rentals bring tourist spending outside the downtown core and they make Kelowna more appealing as a tourist destination.

But that’s where the love affair ends.

Almost 70 per cent believe short-term rentals encourage housing speculation, 50 per cent think they create parking issues and another 49 per cent say they encourage foreign buyers who will be absentee owners.

Only on their nuisance factor and safety issues where respondents somewhat evenly split: 42 per cent think short-term rentals cause problems versus 38 per cent who don’t.

The number of short-term rental listings has climbed steadily since council first heard from community planners in 2016 about the problem, even as the regular rental vacancy rate has dropped to 0.2 per cent, one of the lowest in the country for a city its size.

Planner Laura Bentley says the city has taken that time to get a better understanding of who is renting out these units and where they are generally located before presenting possible solutions.

“When we look at how it relates to long term rentals, we wanted to look at the big picture,” Bentley said.

Her report to council this week lays out the principles staff will use to develop the coming guidelines, which Bentley concedes will likely resemble something like the Vancouver or Victoria model that includes business licensing and increased enforcement.

“They both recently adopted regulations that short-term rentals must be in the principal residence only,” Bentley said. “We’re certainly looking at that as a model, given our housing situation."

Before that, planners will conduct “stakeholder engagement” with Tourism Kelowna, the hotel industry and some strata councils that allow short-term rentals.

Unless someone lays a complaint with bylaw, those currently running an illegal short-term rental should be OK. Bentley expects the draft regulations won’t be back before council until after the municipal election Oct. 21 and after the end of the short-term rental season.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald 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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