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Penticton to receive no leeway on new short-term rental regulations

Click to play video: 'No leeway to short term rental regulations'
No leeway to short term rental regulations
The City of Penticton will soon lose hundreds of licensed short-term rentals as the province has denied the city’s request for an exemption to the new regulations. Taya Fast reports – Mar 21, 2024

Penticton, B.C., will not receive any leeway or exceptions to the province’s new short-term rental regulations.

Earlier this year, Penticton City Council sent a letter to the province asking for flexibility, but the province recently denied the request due to the city’s low vacancy rate.

“As a city we were disappointed, as a council we were disappointed but not surprised,” said Coun. Helena Konanz.

“There were other communities that asked for some flexibility also and we knew that they were denied so we will continue with plans to get the new policies in place.”

Click to play video: 'Petition hopes to lead to more short term exemptions'
Petition hopes to lead to more short term exemptions

The new rules don’t apply to communities with a population under 10,000 or resort communities like Osoyoos.

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Konanz believes that Penticton is in a unique position and should have received similar exemptions as the designated resort communities.

“We were looking for some type of flexibility, whether it be an area in particular around our lakes or whether it be certain time of years or during certain festivals, but the bottom line is that Penticton is really a resort community,” said Konanz.

“The province has relaxed the rules for designated resort communities throughout the province. We were hoping that the province would consider us in all ways as they should have a resort community, especially for those two months a year.”

Municipalities can opt out of the new regulations if it meets certain criteria including having a vacancy rate of three per cent or higher for two consecutive years.

“When many communities — including Penticton — are seeing low vacancy rates, we believe the new legislation offers a balanced approach that will return thousands of homes to the long-term housing market while still accommodating our province’s tourism needs,” said the Ministry of Housing in an email statement to Global News.

“Should the City of Penticton reach and maintain a vacancy rate of over three per cent the province would be able to grant the city an exemption from the principal residence requirement, if requested.”

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna opts out of short-term rental rules'
West Kelowna opts out of short-term rental rules

According to a 2023 report, Penticton staff estimated that around half of the city’s then-400 licensed short-term rentals would become illegal after the new regulations come into effect.

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Debbie Wheeldon is one of many short-term rental hosts that will be forced to shut down under the new rules.

“It’s just … heartbreaking,” said Wheeldon.

“We even turned down some guests last night that wanted to come up and visit their grandparents and enjoy Penticton. But we had to say no, sorry because of what the government is saying that we can’t do that for you.”

Wheeldon and her husband Dale have hosted a number of guests at their rental, Grandma’s Elephant Hideaway, in Penticton over the past few years and are often fully booked during peak travel season.

The couple have already had to turn down people, including return guests, for the summer.

“I’m really disappointed in the government that we have… I just can’t believe that they would do that,” said Wheeldon.

“It floors me that in 2018, Carole James did a big interview with the head of Airbnb and said how welcome short-term rentals would be in our province and how we needed them. And so people thought well great, we’ll do short-term rentals. And then this government turns around and says no we’re not doing them, and that is absolutely frustrating.”

Click to play video: 'New rules could force Penticton short-term rental to shut down'
New rules could force Penticton short-term rental to shut down

Meanwhile, the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is still measuring how much of an impact losing hundreds of short-term rentals will have on the local economy.

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“We’re a little disappointed that the province didn’t consider the city’s requests. Very much like the city, the chamber is looking at the impact, particularly to our tourism industry. Our tourism industry represents 10 per cent of our labour workforce,” said chamber executive director Michael Magnusson.

“We also know through a study that the city commissioned a couple of years back, that short-term rentals are responsible for 25 per cent of the tourism economy. So, this is a significant decrease that we’re going to be seeing this year. We’re not sure exactly how the impacts are going to be on our business community, but we know that it’s negative. The question is just how much?”

The regulations come into effect as of May 1st, meaning short-term rentals will only be allowed within principal residences.

Click to play video: 'New short-term rental rules could impact tourism'
New short-term rental rules could impact tourism

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