Kelowna city council has voted to eliminate most short-term rentals, such as those listed on Airbnb, across the city with some small exceptions.
Council was asked by city staff to endorse sweeping changes to the city’s short-term rentals bylaw, far exceeding restrictions being introduced by the province.
Council heard the potential hardship from those utilizing short-term rentals as a way to afford making monthly mortgage payment during a recent public hearing while also hearing from staff that short-term rentals are having an adverse affect on the city’s long-term rental stock.
Coun. Rick Webber told his colleagues the decision for him came down to what would benefit the community as a whole and not individual landowners.
“Listening to the discussion today the argument seems to be will this get more people into homes or force a lot of people out of their homes,” said Webber.
“Well, that’s a hell of a question to answer, and there is no obvious answer to this.”
Webber sided with the majority saying if the province’s legislation and the city’s restrictive bylaw works as intended, it will make more homes available for more people.
Provincial legislation set to come into effect May 1 would allow short-term rentals in principal residences only.
The city’s changes approved Monday will eliminate short-term rentals across the city regardless of residential distinction, except for 498 that have valid business licences that will be grandfathered.
Webber joined councillors Luke Stack and Mohini Singh and Mayor Tom Dyas in endorsing those changes.
Councillors Ron Cannan, Gord Lovegrove and Charlie Hodge voted against the changes.
Councillors Maxine DeHart and Loyal Wooldridge, who have valid short-term operating licences recused themselves from the discussion.
Stack, who had one of the loudest voices in favour of the changes, reminded council one of the main reasons they are looking at these sweeping changes is to protect the city’s housing stock.
“We are suffering in this city with the need for long-term housing. I know many have said I don’t care what happens I am never going back into long-term rental housing, fine, they don’t need to,”said Stack.
“But if we pass this bylaw today future investors in our city will be looking at bringing long-term housing. We can’t change somebody who doesn’t want to be a landlord but there will be those who want to come into our city and make investments.”
While he agreed the city and the country are facing a housing affordability crisis, the bigger issue is the lack of new homes being built.
He says he supports the provincial legislation that would allow short-term rentals within principal residences and would suggest staff monitor the situation before moving ahead with even more restrictive bylaws.
“It was a tough decision,” admitted Dyas, “but initially when we looked at the number of licences we originally had outside of this principal residence, it was sitting at about 1,100 that we were aware of.
“We were also aware we had about 2,400 units being rented out. The bulk of those were within towers and apartments, those are outside the purview of what we decided today anyway.
“When we are looking at about 500 that are sitting in principal residences that are using them as short-term rentals.”
Council also unanimously endorsed a motion to ask the province to exempt other specific properties such as those on Sunset Drive, Playa Del Sol and the Aqua development.
Communities do have the ability to ask the province to opt out of its legislation if they have a vacancy rate above three per cent for two consecutive years.
The last time Kelowna’s vacancy rate sat above three per cent was 2012.