Kelowna council moves ahead with regulations for short-term rentals, with a caveat

The decision was made last night in Kelowna council chambers

It was a long night for people involved in the City of Kelowna’s public hearing on short term rentals.

More than 60 people spoke in council chambers, drawing the meeting out until around midnight. The majority of speakers expressed concerns about the new regulations being too strict but when all was said and done, council approved what staff had drawn up. Some changes, however, may be in the offing.

A secondary motion was passed, asking staff to look into options that could allow secondary suites and carriage houses to be rented out on a short term basis. Staff said they could have those reccomendations done by April, and then it will be time to return to a public hearing.

Some of the people who spoke Tuesday night said they rent suites to students for eight months a year, then when the school year is up they start renting as an Airbnb.

“Instead of encouraging more carriage houses, encouraging people to have rental suites in their basements, encouraging people to invest in property and provide rentals, we’re going to hit them on the head and foreclose them,” said one speaker Ian Susset.

Some claimed that renting long-term was difficult and they felt saddled with bad tenants when they entered that kind of agreement.

After hearing out all the participants in the hearing, members of council said they heard concerns and some agreed the regulations as presented may be too strict.

Coun. Charlie Hodge, for example, said he’d like to see the regulations allow for Airbnb, so long as the suite is shared with a primary residence and has ample oversight. He was the only person to vote against the regulations as laid out, and said it was wrong to not have secondary suites and carriage houses allowed to be rented out on a short term basis. In the end as set out, meaning the vote ended up being 6-1.

Other councillors said they were suprirsed that the mix of people who came out were so overwhelmingly in favour of less stringent regulations. Before the meeting public input looked to be more balanced.

Stephen Fleming, city clerk, said they’ve received around 100 pieces of correspondence, with 60 per cent in opposition and 40 in favour of what’s been proposed.

The new regulations, which are awaiting fourth reading, would require short term rental operators to get a business license. It would also apply guidelines for parking, number of guests and noise, among other things

The business licence fee proposed is $345 for a principal residents, and $750 for non principal.

Regulations will allow licensed property owners to rent out a room in their principal residence as long as they live in that home at least eight months of the year.

Short-term rentals wouldn’t be permitted in investment properties, secondary suites or carriage houses, with a few exemptions.

Condo developments that have already been approved for short-term rentals will be grandfathered in, but limitations will apply going forward.

Late last year, Airbnb produced a report about wine regions indicating that 125,900 Airbnb guests arrive to the area a year to enjoy “wineries that range from small family-owned operations to large world- class facilities.”

Wade Darren, a Kelowna Airbnb host, said the site allows the owners to screen and review the would-be renters, and allow large groups of people.

“Airbnb people thrive to get the superhost rating (great Airbnb hosting reviews). They’re renting to only the groups that have great reviews, and those groups don’t risk those reviews. They’re putting their names on the line,” said Darren.

“When we rent to groups of 12 people for a bachelor party, it’s money. It’s not only money to us, it’s money to the city.”

The average Airbnb host charges $141 US a night, amounting to an average yearly income of $4,300 US. The total number of dollars earned in the Okanagan through Airbnb hosting is $16,700,000 US.

The average length of stay in the valley is 2.69 days and the average Airbnb renter hosts for 30 days a year.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed regulations at a public hearing on Tuesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. in council chambers. Written feedback may be submitted by 4 p.m. on Monday, March 11, either by email to cityclerk@kelowna.ca or by letter to the Office of the City Clerk, 1435 Water Street, Kelowna, BC V1Y 1J4.

For more information about the proposed short-term rental regulations and the Healthy Housing Strategy, visit kelowna.ca/planningprojects.

READ MORE: Big night ahead for people going to Kelowna’s public hearing on short term rental bylaws


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