Kelowna city council votes in favour of regulating short-term rentals like airbnb
Kelowna home owners came out fighting for the continued ability to keep short-term rentals without new regulations at a public hearing on Tuesday night.
Residents, landlords and business owners spoke up with decisive opinions about bylaw amendments the city of Kelowna was proposing for properties that list on rental sites like airbnb.
It was standing room only at the meeting, with dozens of people taking to the mic to speak for upwards of five minutes each until 11 p.m.
After another hour of debate between councilors, the regulations as proposed by city staff were approved, with only councilor Charlie Hodge voting against the amendments.
When council chambers erupted with loud voices from those in attendance following the vote, mayor Colin Basran attempted to quiet the crowd, calling the group the “rudest” he’d ever heard in council chambers.
During the public hearing, those who spoke to council about their success as an airbnb host spoke of needing the extra finances to maintain their property ownership in Kelowna’s expensive market.
Several home owners said long-term renters are too financially risky, citing the cost of dealing with bad renters for the reason they turned to university and college students eight months of the year and airbnb for the other four months.
Many speakers spoke against council interfering with what takes place in their private home.
Councilor Gail Given spoke up to point out that all zoning in the city tells people what they can and can’t do on their property, “to make sure someone doesn’t set up a pig farm next to your house.”
Those who spoke from the hotel industry talked about needing the regulations to level the playing field within the short-term rental industry.
READ MORE: Kelowna cracking down on short-term rentals
Councilor Hodge suggested rather than dictate where short-term rentals are allowed, the city could ensure those properties have an onsite manager to reduce the impact on neighbourhoods.
Given said she was swayed to maybe change her mind and allow short-term rentals in carriage houses and secondary suites, contrary to the recommended changes, because those properties have managers living on site in the form of homeowners.
Given also pointed out the low vacancy rate, which has been said to be around 1.9 per cent in Kelowna, is a murky number because it only reflects rental-dedicated properties in the city and not carriage houses and secondary suites.
Short-term rentals rooms available in Kelowna are nearly the same as the number of hotel rooms available in the city, which was a troubling statistic, she said.
Given supports regulations that reduce the impact on neighbourhoods, which is why the city moved to change bylaws, she said.
While only one resident who has been negatively been affected by a neighbourhour with a short-term rental spoke at the public meeting, councilors said many more came forward prior to the 2018 civic election.
Councilor Loyal Wooldridge said, following the public hearing, he realized council doesn’t have all the answers and it was clear there was big support for short-term rentals.
Mayor Basran said he has heard from numerous people that there is nowhere to live in Kelowna, which is an issue he struggles with as council looks at helping fix the problem of affordable and accessible housing.
Basran said he continues to contemplate how to treat short-term rentals because he wants to strike a balance between helping people who need housing in the community and the interests of local residents and businesses.
“I appreciate the comments made tonight…. I have shifted,” Basran said of his view of regulations on short-term rentals following the public hearing.
But in the end, Basran said he would be in favour of the regulations as presented by city staff.
Those regulations, as proposed would allow short-term rentals in an operator’s principal residence in residential and mixed-use commercial zones.
An amendment was forwarded to allow secondary suites and carriage homes in the regulation.
A licence would cost $345 per year.
The changes are expected to be rolled out after the summer.
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