Kelowna to consider allowing short-term rentals

City staff have been working on the contentious issue for more than a year

Kelowna city staff at look at developing guidelines that could dictate how short-term accommodation rentals are handled in the city in future. —Image: Capital News file

Despite rules that prohibit short-term accommodation rentals in the City of Kelowna, plenty of local property owners are flouting, say city staff.

According to staff report, as of last November, there were 1,178 listings for short-term rentals in Kelowna despite the fact they are not allowed in any areas zoned residential in the city.

“Municipalities across B.C., and globally, have been grappling with if, and how, to permit and regulate short-term rentals following the rise of various online vacation rental platforms over the last few years, such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others,” says the city’s planning department.

“These platforms offer different options for types of accommodations through hosts in private residences, including renting individual rooms, suites or entire homes.”

But the report says while short-term rentals provide a different option for tourists and an opportunity for additional income for homeowners, they can also present concerns about housing availability and affordability, neighbourhood character and nuisances, and create what it calls unfair competition to traditional accommodation providers.

Short-term rentals are considered to be for less than a month at a time and the city is currently working on how to allow them. For the last year, the city hall has been looking at the issue and during that time has talked to the public and business to gather feedback.

On Monday council approved a plan to establish guideline for short-term rental, including only allowing them in a property owners principal residence. They would not be allowed in secondary suites or carriage houses.

Last winter a survey was conducted by the city that drew 2,632 responses but was not considered to be a statistically significant sample of Kelowna residents opinions.

Just over 60 per cent of respondents said secondary suites and carriage houses should be allowed for use as short-term rentals, a majority also felt spare rooms in homes should be allowed for use. Half indicated entire residential units—single-detached and semi-detached homes, as well as multi-family buildings—should also be allowed.

On the other hand, nearly one in five respondents indicated they felt short-term rentals should not be allowed at all.

As for where they should be located, 81 per cent said in tourist areas, 79 per cent said commercial areas where there are stores and restaurants nearby and 74 per cent said in urban areas.

The key themes were affordability, allowing homeowners to decide how to use their property, tourism, regulations and noise concerns.

Kelowna has also looked at what is done elsewhere in B.C. when it comes to short-term rentals and found they are allowed in most zones in Vancouver and Victoria (only in operator’s primary residence), in Nelson and in limited locations in Tofino on Vancouver Island. All four areas require a business licence.

Because short-term rentals will impact the housing market, neighbourhoods and the accommodation industry, the city says it plans to develop the guiding principles to be used to draft policies and regulations to allow short-term rentals in Kelowna in the future.

But first it plans to hold extensive consultations across Kelowna.

Related: Lake Country council passes first step for short-term rentals

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