Kelowna city council has voiced its concern over the impact the provincial government’s crackdown on short-term rentals could have on tourism.
The province recently denied a city request to exempt specific properties from the government’s changes to short-term rental legislation.
The properties in question include buildings along Sunset Drive as well as developments such as Playa del Sol and Aqua project still under construction.
“Staff had a meeting with senior staff at the Ministry of Housing. During that meeting the ministry indicated to staff that one-off exemptions that did not meet the provincial criteria would be considered,” said planning director Ryan Smith on Monday.
“We posed a number of questions and ministry staff indicated there is no opportunity for Kelowna to send a list of ‘Made in Kelowna’ exemptions for consideration.”
“I am disappointed,” stated Coun. Luke Stack, who felt the province should have considered the city’s request given the way the properties were zoned.
“It could have a major impact on how we manage tourism in our central core areas,” said Stack.
Coun. Ron Cannan went further stating local businesses in high tourist areas such as downtown and South Pandosy would be severely impacted.
“There is no other municipality in the province of this size that has a $2 billion visitor economy, two million annual visitors, generates over 13,000 jobs, $240 million in tax revenue and $440 million in direct spending to local businesses,” said Cannan who pointed to the affect last summer’s fires had on local businesses.
Despite council’s concerns, Smith indicated the only way around the legislation is for a city to have a rental vacancy rate of three per cent for at least two consecutive years or for buildings to become strata hotels — facilities made up of individually-owned strata lots pooled together for the purpose of being rented to tourists.
Mayor Tom Dyas told council he has been in contact with other tourism dependent communities and will continue to advocate to the province.
Dyas also wondered whether council should relook at the decision it made several weeks ago bring in sweeping restrictions on local short-term rentals. That near-complete ban on short-term rentals in Kelowna was brought in with the hope that the city would be able to have developments like Playa del Sol exempted from the provincial rules.
City manager Doug Gilchrist, when asked if council should take up the advocacy charge, indicated he believes the answer would likely be the same.
The decisions made by council leave less than 500 legally licensed short-term rentals in the city.
Smith says he expects to return by the end of the year to brief council on the impacts the bylaw change has had.