Penticton will ask the B.C. government for an exception to new legislation aimed at curbing short-term rental properties.
As of May 1, short-term rentals in all B.C. communities with populations over 10,000 will be limited to a property owner’s primary residence or secondary suite.
That will effectively end whole-house vacation rentals, detractors which of view them as noisy nuisances that take housing out of the long-term rental pool for locals who need it.
But a 5-2 majority of Penticton city councillors believes the rules need tweaking to recognize this city’s historical reliance on short-term rentals for big events like Ironman.
“All of us around this table have heard from multiple members of our community in the last few months who are concerned about the sweeping new rules concerning short-term rentals,” said Coun. Helena Konanz, who put forward a motion at Tuesday’s meeting to write a letter to the B.C. government to request special consideration for Penticton.
“Sweeping new rules don’t work when considering the diverse communities in British Columbia,” continued Konanz.
“These policies do not take into account our unique quality and needs. Short-term rentals are important for the Penticton economy and our accommodations sector.”
Konanz floated a range of measures that could help Penticton, such as allowing property owners to maintain a maximum of one whole-house rental, or allowing short-term rentals only in specific parts of the city or at certain times of the year.
Mayor Julius Bloomfield called for a more “balanced” scheme than the “heavy-handed approach” initiated by the B.C. government, which is trying to free up permanent homes for residents.
“That balance is allowing for the existence of some short-term rentals within a city and respecting people have made substantial investments into that business in a law-abiding way up until the change in the regulations,” said Bloomfield.
The mayor also suggested the province look at amending the Residential Tenancy Act to help short-term rental operators transition to long-term rentals, and took note of “an opportunity for the hotel industry to take a look at their own operations and ask themselves why has the short-term rental market been explosively productive and successful over these past few years?”
The two votes opposing the request for special treatment came from Couns. Isaac Gilbert and James Miller.
Gilbert acknowledged the changes are “drastic,” but noted the legislation also allows for short-term rentals in communities where the vacancy rate is 3% or more. (Penticton was at 1.1% as of October 2021, the most recent period for which data is available from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.)
“Yes, we are a community that relies on tourism and we’re a community that welcomes that tourism here,” said Gilbert.
“We’re also a community that needs housing for people to work here and to be here in the city and to be able to supply a workforce.”