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City, mayor not standing up for short-term rental owners, says Kelowna realtor

It has been just over two weeks since stricter rules for short-term rentals (STRs) came into effect across BC.

The legislation was introduced in 2023 in an effort to get more long-term rentals on the market.

Earlier this month, KelownaNow sat down with local real estate agent Blake Roberts to talk about short-term rentals in Kelowna and the impact the new rules have on homeowners.

Roberts said he has issues with how the province introduced “blanket” legislation without taking into account people’s investments into purpose built STR buildings.

“My concern is the City of Kelowna (is) lying down and turning its back on people who bought purpose built short term rentals,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the problem was that the city and province were not “differentiating between purpose built legal units and the masses.”

<who> Photo Credit: 123rf

According to the City of Kelowna’s website, the legislation does not apply to hotels, motels, vehicles (such as RV’s) and tents or other temporary shelters.

"There are also limited exemptions to the principal residence requirement which includes strata titled hotels and to properties that include farm land," the website says.

Originally, the City of Kelowna thought a small handful of properties could be granted “legally non-conforming” status and grandfathered into the legislation, however, that changed on May 1.

In Kelowna, the principal use of STRs, where STRs were the main use of the property, are no longer permitted in buildings like Aqua or Playa Del Sol.

“This is because short-term rentals are limited under provincial legislation to only being permitted within the host’s primary residence,” the city says.

“For current legally non-conforming properties, principal use (STRs) will no longer be permitted, as principal use (STR) accommodation is not a permitted use in the Zoning Bylaw for the zones of those properties.”

Roberts said the lack of differentiation between illegal STRs and the ones operating in homes, which were bought “strictly” for that purpose is “wrong.”

He also claimed that the city has not been advocating enough and is choosing not to stand up.

“That is what’s so frustrating to me.The fact that our city is turtling and the reason they're turtling is they don't want to p**s ff the provincial government. They don't want to stand up for taxpayers,” he said.

In a statement to KelownaNow, the city said STRs in those purpose-built buildings would need to have the strata hotel exemption but would need to apply for that exemption by the owners.

Ryan Smith, the city’s divisional planning director, told KelownaNow that city staff are having ongoing talks with the provincial government about the strata hotel exemption to gain more clarity and how that might apply to more properties.

“We will continue to advocate for those properties,” Smith told KelownaNow.

<who> Photo Credit: Playa Del Sol Resort

Shortly after Kelowna City Council adopted stricter rules in January, they submitted an exemption request for a handful of properties like Play del Sol and Aqua.

However, the request was denied.

At that time, Ryan Smith said staff for the Ministry of Housing said there was no opportunity to send in a list of “made in Kelowna” exemptions for consideration.

When the City of Kelowna found out their request had been denied, city manager Doug Gilchrist and mayor Tom Dyas said Kelowna wasn’t the only tourist town being hit hard by the new principal residency requirements, adding that advocacy would continue.

Regardless, Roberts claimed the City of Kelowna and the mayor were not standing up.

“When you're dealing with the provincial government, yes, there's a delicate balancing act. But our mayor and our council and our city are playing a role. Through either being silent and not speaking up publicly,” he told KelownaNow.

Roberts said more discussion needed to be had about the people who bought property with the intent of operating a STR.

“Let's talk about what's happening to people like that. And the fact that our City of Kelowna is being silent, that's the part that is so frustrating,” he reiterated.

KelownaNow asked what Roberts thought would be a solution.

“There was some balance problem with Eby and Ravi. They have gone so far in one direction, it's scary. And again, our province is walking in lockstep,” he said.

He said that residents need to know the difference between “party central” STRs and the ones that were running in purpose built buildings in Playa Del Sol, Brooklyn, Discovery Bay.

“I want taxpayers and, whether you're an owner or renter, to understand there is a difference. I'm with you, we need housing,” Roberts said, adding that he doesn’t know the solution.

“Just don’t be pitting people against each other. It’s frustrating.”

You can watch the full interview with Blake Roberts below.

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