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Sun Peaks Resort considering housing authority to battle Airbnb rentals

Sun Peaks
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
October 03, 2017 - 6:45 PM

KAMLOOPS - As Sun Peaks Resort, just outside of Kamloops, continues to grow, efforts to find affordable housing for staff have become aggravated by a lack of rental properties and issues surrounding online, short-term rental companies like Airbnb.

Vice president and general manager Darcy Alexander says they are in decent shape for this winter thanks to 50 temporary rooms that were added last year and are under a permit that will run out after the 2018-2019 season. As for long term solutions, they have some big plans that could change the rental landscape at the ski hill.

"We are working with our local municipality to set up a housing authority along the lines of what was set up in Whistler years ago," he says. "That's another piece of the puzzle long term and for Sun Peaks we are actively negotiating with a couple of other suppliers to build more staff accommodations."

Alexander says one of the more recent challenges for mountain resorts across the globe is dealing with online, short-term rentals arrangements made through companies like Airbnb. He says the practice of buying a home at the resort only to use it as a source of revenue is a major issue.

"Quite frankly... senior government is part of the issue here," he says. "There are rules that worked in the past, before the advent of the internet and the electronic economy, that today don't work."

He is concerned people can use companies like Airbnb to rent out a property in areas of a community not zoned for that.

"They're not paying appropriate property taxes, they're not paying PST or GST, and they're not paying for the extra services that they use."

Alexander says what happens with short-term rentals is a home that is designed and taxed for a family of four is constantly being occupied by ten or more people. Under the resort municipality's current rules, the property owners are not properly charged for that increase. This means the resort is left to pay for the added costs of more garbage hauling, water use and strain on the sewer system.

Every time a property owner decides to use their home as a short-term rental instead of long-term, they hurt the municipality by taking away from the pool of available rental properties for seasonal staff and taking revenue away from the hotels at the resort.

"It is especially a problem for small communities that don't have a big buffer zone," he adds. "That means every resort community, be it Silver Star, Sun Peaks or Big White, we're getting pinched for our rental accommodation because of this. It's in some ways a good thing for us because we have more guests, but we also need the staff to service those guests."

Resort municipalities throughout the province dealing with similar issues have brought the matter to the province in hopes of getting some assistance, but Alexander says there does not appear to be any aid coming.

"We've been advocating with the Union of B.C. Municipalities that the province help us with this and to this point they haven't stepped up to the plate," he says. "They've kind of ignored the problem."

Alexander feels the issue can be solved by the province creating some pretty simple rule changes that will ensure everybody is treated fairly.

"If you're in a commercial business and renting your place out, you pay the commercial rate," he says. "If you're using it for residential, you pay the residential rate. It's only fair. That's what everybody else in the community does. Those guys need to be part of the same program.

"We're not opposed to Airbnb or any of the rest of them coming in here and doing that, they just need to pay their fair share. Right now our estimate is their costs are 30 to 35 per cent less than a commercial accommodater in our community and that's not fair or appropriate."

On the Airbnb website there are currently 176 rentals available at Sun Peaks ranging from under $100 to nearly $500 per night.


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