Credit: File Photo

Students utilize short-term rentals

A Kelowna short-term rental owner said a majority of rentals are used by students

Short-term rentals benefit Kelowna’s growing student community, says a Central Okanagan resident.

Short-term rental owner Mark Ameerali said a majority of the rentals are rented out to students in the winter which provides them with housing in a market that doesn’t have enough for them.

“A vast majority of short-term rentals operators, who I call entrepreneurial operators, are renting to students. The reason for that is the demand for student rental is quite high. The university and college are growing,” he said.

Ameerali is also part of a real estate group and said he has had conversations with city council to find a happy medium with regulations.

A report was presented to city council last year, outlining possible issues for the community which include: “possible conversion of existing housing stock to vacation rentals, lost tax revenue, inequitable rules when compared to the broader hotel industry and potential lack of compliance with health and safety regulations.”

Ameerali said he thought the report was one-sided, so he sent a letter to the city outlining his points.

He suggested providing different licensing options for short-term rentals.

These three options include: licensing for entire homes where the host does not occupy the home; vacation rentals for those who offer their homes while on vacation; and shared-accommodation licensing where the host shares accommodations with renters.

“My argument is there is probably some permanent housing coming off the market but it’s definitely not sitting empty. It’s being utilized by the students,” he said.

Airbnb also provides temporary housing for those in emergency situations, he said.

“We saw a huge benefit to the community when the floods happened with emergency locations. If you didn’t have an Airbnb community, emergency services wouldn’t be available to provide temporary housing through the community.”

Currently, Kelowna has 940 active Airbnb hosts who have an average income income of $5,900 per year, according to Airbnb.

According to the city staff report approximately 500 units are in the short-term rental pool in Kelowna. The approximate number of condo/secondary rental units are 12,736 while the hotel room supply sits at 3,061.

Earlier this month, Vancouver council proposed an annual short-term rental license which only allow hosts to rent out their primary residence.

Community planning development manager Ryan Smith said Kelowna’s regulations will require business and zoning licenses, but won’t be so heavy-handed.

“We didn’t have the resources to do it (last year), but we recommended a lighter touch,” he said.

Coun. Ryan Donn said staff was leaning towards Penticton’s model, which has four categories of short-term rentals depending on length of stay and number of guests, with all but the high occupant category being limited to two persons per bedroom and a maximum of five guests.

(The Kelowna staff report said) it looks like if we go too much with the regulation then people will go underground and what’s the purpose of regulation?” said Donn. “We know that we are looking at a business license system,” he said.

The recommendations from the report include: restricting the number of business licenses issues for short-term rentals, adding zoning requirements and collecting hotel tax.

“In Kelowna, we see it’s not an issue, it’s a summer high usage essentially,” said Donn.

Kelowna city staff will be bringing the issue back to the table in the fall.