A busy Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

City could divert funds earmarked for affordable housing to Tourism Kelowna

Tourism Kelowna ad campaign shows slogan of ‘Kelowna is Ready’

The City of Kelowna is looking to move funds earmarked for affordable housing to assist the struggling tourism industry.

Today (July 13), city council will vote on a few funding changes which would assist Tourism Kelowna with near and long-term marketing initiatives. The report was released on Thursday, July 9, just one day prior to the announcement of eight COVID-19 cases in the city — six of which came from outside Kelowna — and exposure at several locations between June 25 to July 9.

Despite those recent developments, the documents contained in the council agenda show some of Tourism Kelowna’s ad campaign materials, showing a slogan of ‘Kelowna is Ready’.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

READ MORE: Interior Health identifies more locations with COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna

Currently, the city gives Tourism Kelowna $28,702 a month to support its operations. If city council approves the motion before them today, the rest of the year’s payments would be given to Tourism Kelowna in a lump sum of around $143,500 to “implement immediate marketing initiatives.”

“These are not new or additional resources for Tourism Kelowna but the change in payment schedule functions as a cash flow ‘bridge’ to support marketing initiatives during a time when MRDT (municipal and regional district tax) revenues are reduced/deferred,” reads the report.

Further funds would come in 2021 from the city’s online accommodation platform (OAP) revenue reserve, a tax pot that comes from organizations like Airbnb. That reserve is currently set aside for future affordable housing projects and land acquisition. Staff are suggesting those revenues are shared equally between the City of Kelowna and Tourism Kelowna through 2021 for additional marketing resources through what is anticipated to be an extended recovery period.

In 2022, the city hopes to reclaim 100 per cent of the OAP reserve to support affordable housing initiatives. In the third quarter of 2021, the city will revist the matter with Tourism Kelowna.

In 2019, the city contributed $470,690 to the OAP reserve. A total of $514,690 in 2018/2019 OAP revenues is held in the OAP reserve.

Council will vote on the item during today’s council meeting which begins at 1:30 p.m.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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