Short-term rentals: B.C. Hotel Association accused of self-serving advocacy

File photo of short-term rentals available in the Okanagan. Global News

Restrictions on short-term rentals are something the B.C. Hotel Association has long advocated for, saying legislation introduced this month will free up badly needed housing for hospitality workers.

However, some short-term rental operators accuse the organization of being self-serving, saying B.C.’s new legislation is essentially wiping out the competition —something the B.C. Hotel Association denies.

“I think it’s important that the public knows what’s going on here. You know, it’s the B.C. hotel monopoly act,” said Susanne Young, who manages a short-term rental unit in downtown Kelowna.

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The province says it introduced the legislation to help tackle B.C.’s housing crisis in hopes of turning short-term rentals into long-term ones.

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After the legislation was introduced, the B.C. Hotel Association sent out an email titled “Advocacy win! BC unveils legislation to shift short-term rentals towards long-term housing.”

In the email, the Hotel Association said it’s thrilled the legislation “incorporates every recommendation that the BCHA has long championed.”

It also said the legislation “benefits both our industry and employees who have faced housing challenges.”

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The B.C. Hotel Association denies the accusation that it advocated for short-term rental restrictions for its own financial gain.

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“Oh, not at all,” said B.C. Hotel Association president and CEO Ingrid Jarrett.

“We have a highly competitive industry and we’ve always had competition. Competition is a good thing. It’s like the tourism industry. You never have only one winery in the wine region; you have many. It’s exactly the same with the accommodation industry,” Jarrett said.

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“There’s room for everybody in all of its different forms. And I think right now, because there’s some uncertainty, there may be some conversations that, you know, will anticipate this dreadful outcome.

“I actually am a full supporter due to the critical importance of people who work within the tourism and hospitality industry. They need to be able to afford their housing.”

Jarrett said the housing situation is so bad that many B.C. hotels have been housing their workers, which then limits their capacity to sell rooms.

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She also said the short-term rental industry is predominantly unregulated, and there has to be a fine balance between the housing demand and various industries so employees can stay, live and work in their communities.

“We have people around the province that are commuting long distances because of the lack of affordable housing,” Jarrett said. “It always comes back to housing.”

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Along with saying municipalities will make the right choices when it comes to short-term rentals, Jarrett said short-term rentals should be on the same playing field as the bed-and-breakfast industry, which is highly regulated.

“They have distance licences, they have health inspections and fire inspections,” Jarrett said of the bed-and-breakfast industry. “They have insurance to make sure that the occupants are well looked after.

“And that really reflects the same regulatory framework that hotels operate under. And I believe the short-term rental industry should be operating under the same regulatory framework.”

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