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Okanagan-Similkameen to workshop short-term rentals regulations

Regional district directors split on issue of short-term rental regulations
The RDOS office was built in 1984. Black Press file photo

Directors at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen will be holding a special workshop meeting to go over the provincial government’s crackdown on short-term rentals.

The topic has been the focus of debate at multiple meetings of the board since the government’s announcement of limiting short-term rentals to properties where the owner lives, and the latest covered another hour on Feb. 8.

The issue at the heart of the debate is that while some directors are eager to jump on board and welcome the new regulations, others were concerned about how it will impact smaller more tourism-based communities, with Tulameen being cited as one example.

It had been previously brought up about whether the government would allow for exclusions for particular communities, but RDOS planner Chris Garrish said that the provincial government had been clear on the issue.

“The question did come up and ministry staff were quite clear that there is no option for carving out sub-areas within electoral areas,” said Garrish. “Either that electoral area is all in, or it’s all out.”

READ MORE: Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen debates short-term rental regulations

Some of the directors made it clear that they were eager to bring in the new regulations to what has largely been a free-for-all in rural areas.

“I have over 86 Airbnb short-term rentals, not even including Heritage Hills,” said Okanagan Falls director Matt Taylor. “Last time I checked we had six [Temporary Use Permits]. I just view what the province is offering as an opportunity to get control and regulate what we presently have unregulated.”

Other directors expressed concerns over how recent legislation doesn’t give municipalities the ability to opt-out and how it has already started to shift rentals from Penticton outwards.

“I can tell you that my community is being approached and homes are being sold,” said Kaleden, Twin Lakes and Apex director Subrina Monteith. “People are expecting to be able to have vacation rentals in my community, and my community doesn’t support it. We can’t wait, we are under pressure.

“I’m getting calls from realtors, property owners from Vancouver, from Alberta that own properties that absolutely want me to guarantee that we’re not going to opt-in and I can’t because we really need to protect our community.”

Ski resorts like Apex Mountain and other designated resort communities are exempt from the short-term rental’s principal residence regulation as part of the provincial legislation.

Questions of enforcement and whether the RDOS would have to look to establish and fund a business license department to manage rentals were also questions raised by directors at the board meeting.

After the lengthy debate, directors voted to have a workshop meeting specifically to tackle the issue without taking up regular board meeting time.

A set date for the workshop meeting was not scheduled but is expected soon, as the government has a March 31 deadline on the RDOS’ decision about whether to opt-in for the regulations.

RDOS staff have been recommending opting out of the regulations for at least 2024, to complete their vacation rental review and housing report for the year first to have a better idea of the situation before making the decision.

When it comes to a vote on the decision of whether to opt-in or not, only the directors for the rural electoral areas, not the directors representing local municipalities, will be able to cast a vote.

If the board does end up voting to opt-in, either as a whole or for specific areas, then the regulations would take effect as of November 2024.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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