Kelowna property owners with a short-term rental business licence will be allowed to keep operating when new provincial rules take effect on May 1, 2024.
That was the result of a 4-3 vote at city council’s regular meeting on Monday (Jan. 15).
“The existing licences that are in place, which is 498 of them, we will allow those to exist at this point,” said Mayor Tom Dyas.
The close vote was the result of tough debate amongst council.
“I hear regularly from the public how frustrated they are that we can’t bring the bad players under control and we don’t seem to have the tools in our toolbox,” said Coun. Luke Stack. “I think that’s why the province has jumped in and said if you guys can’t fix it at the municipal level we’ll take a crack at it because we have a bigger toolbox.”
Provincial legislation defines short-term rentals as any accommodation provided to the public for less than 90 consecutive days and restricts them to a homeowner’s principal residence.
Kelowna’s bylaw is more restrictive, less than 30 days, banning short-term rentals as a principal or secondary land use in mixed-use and residential zones with few exceptions.
Staff recommended that 498 currently licenced secondary use short-term rentals be allowed to continue operating in Kelowna, even after May 1, with a ‘legally non-conforming’ status, provided they meet provincial principal residence requirements.
“Are we putting more people on our streets, out of their homes and back into the rental market if we go more restrictive than the province has?” asked Coun. Gord Lovegrove.
Coun. Rick Webber said council must balance what is best for the community as a whole.
“In listening to the discussion today the argument seems to be will this get more people into homes or will it force a lot of people out of their homes. That’s a hell of a question to answer.”
A four-and-a-half-hour public hearing on the matter in November 2023 saw about 200 people pack council chambers.
Coun. Ron Cannan said he believed the province’s approach is more balanced.
“Between protecting people’s property rights while respecting the rights I believe of the residents in the community.”
Council has also asked staff to put together a list of properties that may be exempt from the new legislation.
“We can imagine that there is a good number of them that would be along the waterfronts and that were built with the purpose of short-term rentals,” Mayor Dyas added. “And whether they (provincial government) would consider giving an exemption to this area to help with our tourism demands that we have, not only in Kelowna but in the Okanagan.”
Dyas, along with councillors Webber, Stack and Mohini Singh voted in favour of moving ahead with changes to short-term rentals in Kelowna, while councillors Lovegrove, Cannan and Charlie Hodge voted against.
Councillors Loyal Wooldridge and Maxine DeHart recused themselves from the discussion and vote citing conflicts of interest.
Wooldridge holds a short-term rental licence, and DeHart is employed by Ramada Hotels and owns two units on Sunset Drive.