The City of Kelowna won’t be seeing secondary suites and carriage houses available for short-term rentals any time soon after council defeated a motion to allow them in that type of housing Tuesday evening in a 4-3 vote.
After hearing from more than a dozen residents both in support and opposed to proposed amendments to the bylaw allowing short-term rental in principle residences in some parts of the city, Mayor Colin Basran, along with councillors Luke Stack, Gail Given and Mohini Singh, decided things are OK as is “for now,” he said.
Coun. Maxine DeHart, a local hotelier, recused herself from the meeting citing a conflict of interest while Coun. Ryan Donn was absent.
In light of this decision, short-term regulations will remain the same as originally implemented in April, community planning supervisor Laura Bentley said, adding they will not be allowed in carriage houses or secondary suites.
“Tonight, I believe I had the decision to either perpetuate the status quo, which is to allow it to happen and to allow rent to continue to go up, to allow house prices to continue to rise and to have us find other ways to try to curb that,” Basran said.
“Or, we can continue to implement the strategies in our Healthy Housing Strategy, which is a combination of many different bylaws and ideas in order to actually help with affordability.”
A number of speakers in support of the amendment said short-term rentals, including Airbnb and VRBO, in secondary suites and carriage houses would allow homeowners to supplement their income, while giving individuals more control over who they can and can’t rent to.
But Basran and his colleagues who voted against the changes did so in order to protect the long-term rental market.
“I have a hard time getting away from this one line of our report,” Basran said.
“Secondary suites and carriage houses are an integral part of Kelowna’s secondary market. Allowing short-term rentals in these units is expected to remove units from the long-term rental market, putting added pressure on purpose-built rentals and other forms of rental housing.”
Councillors Brad Sieben, Loyal Wooldridge and Charlie Hodge voted in favour of short-term rentals, citing how it would provide housing for students, encourage affordable tourism and embrace technology.
A number of people who spoke to the issue during the lengthy public hearing said the Residential Tenancy Act and negative experiences with previous tenants deterred them from putting their suites and carriage houses on the long-term rental market.
Basran underscored council is not saying “never” to short-term rentals in these types of units.
The bylaw will be up for review again in the fall of 2020, and council will reconsider its choices based on the vacancy rate at that time, the rental market and progress on developing the Healthy Housing Strategy.
“I want to be clear here that we’re not prohibiting short-term rentals,” he said.
“There are properties available in our community that still have the ability to offer (them) and so I just think, to me, we’re striking a balance for now with housing affordability and tourism opportunity.”
Community planning supervisor Laura Bentley said there are approximately 400 purpose-built rental projects currently under construction and more than 1,000 projects in the works — either in the approval process or awaiting building permits.
“I believe what we have in place is adequate for the time being,” the mayor added. “I don’t believe opening it up even further is going to help the situation.”
As it stands now, a homeowner or primary resident can rent their principal residence for periods of 29 days or less, Bentley said.
“Select tourist areas will continue to allow short-term rentals outside of an operator’s principal residence,” she said.
Anyone interested in operating a short-term rental must apply for and be issued a short-term rental business licence by July 1.
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
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