Letter: Long-term renters concerns arise with new development

Deep controversy is brewing in Kelowna on the issue of short-term rentals.

To the editor:

Long-term renters must unite.

Deep controversy is brewing in Kelowna on the issue of short-term rentals.

A public hearing is set for July 31, 6 p.m. at City Hall, to examine the Mission Group’s proposal of the 178-unit Brooklyn building on St. Paul Street.

Both the city and the developer refer to the project as a mixed use commercial-residential condominium tower, but Mission’s president has announced to the public and to prospective buyers that the site is zoned for short-term rentals, essentially making the condo building an apartment hotel – a commercial structure from top to bottom.

“The ability to offset the cost of your investment by renting it when you please is a game changer,” said Randall Shier brightly.

Adding that “first-time homebuyers and working professionals will love the flexibility offered by the option of earning money while they are away from home,” he evidently wants us to think that owners will make these units their principal residences.

But contradicting that thought is the fact that the project’s marketing website, https://www.liveatbrooklyn.com/, has just been translated into a Chinese language.

It’s the epitome of irresponsibility on the part of the developer that he should choose to target speculators, particularly foreign buyers, given the near-zero rental vacancy rate in our city and the province’s significant efforts to curb speculation.

It will be the epitome of irresponsibility on the part of council if they approve the developer’s application for rezoning.

The game change that Shier refers to appears to be the regulatory framework on short-term rentals council approved last week that will support such irresponsible action. The framework aims to limit short-term rentals to an operator’s principal residence, with the important exception of any zone that allows apartment hotels, hotels or motels. Shareholder consultation will occur toward the end of summer or early fall once regulations are drafted.

Upon examining the city’s zoning bylaw, I find that zones C3, C3lp/rls, C3rls, C3lp, C4, C4lp/rls, C4rls, C4lp, C6, C6rls, C6lp, C7, C7rls, C7lp, C7lp/rls, C8, C8rls, C8lp, C9, C9rls, C9lp, and C9lp/rls currently permit apartment hotels, hotels and motels.

Examining the city’s zoning map, I also find there’s scarcely a plot of land downtown that’s not zoned one of these. If the regulatory framework leads to the enactment of new bylaws, the downtown and many other city centres such as Pandosy and Rutland will become a speculator’s heaven.

In drawing up the framework, the city didn’t need to move in this direction. Their case studies involving four other jurisdictions show that two of them limit short-term rentals to principal residences.

A third insists that an operator of short-term rentals must permanently live on the same property as the short-term rental or permanently live in the rental.

A fourth insists that short-term rentals are not allowed within any form of multiple dwelling building or within any commercial, industrial or institutional zones.

Anyone who is concerned with promoting and protecting long-term rentals in Kelowna should attend the public hearing to give mayor and council the heads-up that approval of regulations based on their regulatory framework is far from assured.

Developers and local government alike are morally obliged to support projects that will offer stable and affordable housing to local workers and families.

Mayor and council must be told to reject the exploitative Brooklyn project now. Given that this is an election year, if enough of us turn up, they just might listen.

Dianne Varga,

Kelowna

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