The mayor of Kelowna says rules aren’t being followed by local residents regarding short-term rentals, like those seen on Airbnb.
A quick search on the Airbnb website for Kelowna for a weekend booking this Friday through Sunday showed several places in the Central Okanagan for rent, with prices ranging from $63 to $1,133 per night.
Those rentals, according mayor Colin Basran, are causing repercussions on the local housing market.
“Short-term rentals are definitely having an impact on the housing market,” Basran told Global Okanagan on Friday. “And it’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at implementing some regulations, because we hear all too often of renters who are being evicted from their homes so that their owners can then use that property for short-term rentals.
“And we know with the vacancy rate at zero (per cent), it’s impossible for those long-term tenants to be able to find another place. So it’s having a big impact. And so, again, it’s trying to strike a balance between the needs our long-term renters as well as trying to still be a place where tourists want to come and visit.
“We have people in our community who are not able to find homes, and that’s a serious problem. It’s something that city council takes very seriously. We want people who want to call Kelowna home to be able to find a place to live. And so it’s a really important issue in our community, and one that city council takes seriously and wants to help address.”
In Kelowna, short-term rentals can be found all over, from near UBCO to downtown to Rutland to South Kelowna. It turns out, though, that there are specific places where short-term rentals are allowed, despite the seemingly wild west, anything-goes attitude in Kelowna.
“As it stands now, typical residential neighbourhoods are not allowed to have short-term rentals. And then we do have a couple of areas in our community that are zoned tourist-commercial, where they actually are allowed to have short term rentals,” said Basran. “So there are very small pockets where it’s allowed, but otherwise it’s outlawed throughout the rest of our community.”
Basran said areas that have tourist-commercial zoning, where short-term rentals are allowed, are along Sunset Drive, as well as some buildings near the Manteo and Eldorado Hotel — places with high concentrations of tourists.
“So people aren’t following the rules. But we also know that it’s an experience that tourists in our community want,” said Basran. “We are a tourism-driven community; it’s a big part of our economy. So what we’re working on right now is trying to find that balance between having a strong economy and people wanting to come visit Kelowna, but also making sure that it’s not disruptive to neighbourhoods and that people are doing this fairly and properly.”
Asked if the city is considering a tightening of the rules, or if new rules for short-term rentals will be introduced, Basran said “it’s too early to tell. Right now, staff are taking a look at best practices in other communities and also looking at situations that maybe are unique to Kelowna. They will be bringing forward a series of recommendations for council to consider. At this point, it’s too early to tell which direction this going to go at this point.”