Petition calls for exemptions to buildings like Aqua in Kelowna

The Aqua building in Kelowna was zoned commercially but due to new legislation will not be able to operate on a short term basis. Global News

Kelowna, B.C.’s Aqua building on the shores of Okanagan Lake is still under construction.

But many of the people who pre-purchased a unit will not be able to use the property as they intended.

“This was purpose-built, pre-sold as short-term rentals and it’s a resort-style community,” said JP Letnick.

Letnick, a local realtor,  is among those who pre-bought a unit.

He told Global News many of the purchasers will face a loss whether they choose to sell the property,  due to its commercial designation it was purchased for a premium price, or keep it.

“A lot of the individuals here if they can’t do short-term rental, they’re going to be underwater on their mortgages because the long-term rental doesn’t cover the actual costs of these units for the mortgages, the strata fees and all the maintenance and everything that’s involved with them,” he said.

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The provincial government introduced legislation last fall banning short-term rentals in secondary homes to tackle the housing crisis by creating more long-term homes.

Click to play video: 'Short-term rental rule concerns for B.C. property owners'
Short-term rental rule concerns for B.C. property owners

Since then, a group called Property Rights Association of B.C. formed.

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“It’s provincial government overreach,” said Orion Rodgers, director with association. “We’re talking about people’s property rights, primarily people that purchased homes under multiple levels of rules, bylaws.”

The association has launched a petition calling on amendments to the legislation, including exemptions for buildings that were zoned commercial and have lawfully operated on a short-term basis since being constructed.

“These are people that were operating in a municipality. They have business licences, you know, they pay their taxes, they have staff, everything above board,” Rodgers said.

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“Everyone is set to lose equity, everyone is set to lose staff, everyone is set to lose the way they have structured the finances in their life.”

The petition has so far garnered more than 4,500 signatures.

“You’re taking this blanket, blunt instrument of a tool, and trying to smash down really a little small group,” Rodgers said. “We’re not, you know, not a big group. The illegal operators … those are the ones that should have been heavily targeted.”

While in Kelowna on Friday, B.C.’s housing minister Ravi Kahlon said the short-term legislation is necessary to create more housing for people.

“We don’t want anyone to lose money in their investments,” Kahlon told Global News. “Our main purpose here is to ensure that housing that is available for the public be available for them. We have people struggling every single day here, in communities throughout the region to find housing and affordable housing.”

The petition will be presented to government in the coming weeks.

While the association hopes it leads to a resolution, legal action has not been ruled out.

“Everything is essentially on the table,” Rodgers said.  “We recognize that there are people affected. We recognize that there are people impacted, and I think it’s safe to say that if everyday folks decided to, you know, challenge the government that the association would definitely you know, support that. ”

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Click to play video: 'HGTV star Scott McGillivray discusses turning short term rentals back into long-term accommodation.'
HGTV star Scott McGillivray discusses turning short term rentals back into long-term accommodation.

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