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West Bench, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls opt in to short term rental regulations

The regulations restrict short-term rentals to properties where the owner lives
A sign indicating Airbnb rentals are not permitted is seen at the entrance to a condo tower, in Vancouver, on Thursday, November 23, 2023. Short-term rentals like those through Airbnb will no longer be allowed in three RDOS areas starting Nov. 1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Three electoral areas of the Okanagan Similkameen will be opting into new provincial regulations on short-term rentals.

Okanagan Falls, Greater West Bench and rural Summerland and Kaleden, Apex and Twin Lakes are the three areas to opt in.

Apex Mountain proper is exempt as a designated ski resort, but the rest of the electoral area will now be under the new regulations.

Those regulations require short-term rentals to be limited to residential units on properties where the primary owner lives, limiting them to things such as secondary suites or carriage houses.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and other districts were given until March 31 to decide whether to opt into the regulations, a decision that will have to be made each year.

None of the other electoral areas are making the jump into the requirements, which are option for regional districts but mandatory for non-resort municipalities of a certain size.

In addition property that has been assessed as “farm” (Class 9) by BC Assessment is exempt from the “Principal Residence Requirement”, regardless of whether the land is within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

READ MORE: No leeway or exemptions to short term rental regulations for Penticton

Director Bob Coyne, who represents rural Princeton, including Tulameen, was one of the first directors to state on March 21 that they would not be opting in. Manning Park is a designated resort and would be exempt anyway.

“We’re not interested in opting into this in Area H,” said Coyne. “It’s not going to solve any problems for us.”

Director Tim Roberts, who represents rural Keremeos, expressed concerns about Cathedral Lakes Park Lodge, which staff said they have not received any information from the provincial government as counting as an exception like Apex.

For directors who opted into the system, they pointed to the overwhelming support for the regulations they had received from residents.

“I put it out to the citizens and overwhelmingly, people wanted to opt in,” said West Bench director Riley Gettens. “Area F was never ‘if’ we were going to opt in or out, it was always just a ‘when’ and from the citizens that I’ve heard from that we will be opting in this year.”

Director Matt Taylor, who represents Okanagan Falls, echoed the sentiment and added that while it may help the province’s goal of addressing a housing shortage it won’t be a silver bullet.

“I’ve consulted quite broadly and done a lot of listening,” said Taylor. “The current RDOS system and tools don’t work and in my community don’t appear to be well respected. This one tool isn’t going to fix housing, but we need year-round housing for workers and presently we have workers moving to our community who rented a place and then have to leave it come May 15th or get into a tussle with their landlord.”

The RDOS is also currently working towards a review of short-term rentals throughout the district that was planned before the new provincial regulations were announced.

Director Adrienne Fedrigo, who represents Naramata, pointed to that review as a reason to wait before opting into the new regulations for her area.

“With business licenses coming online and the vacation rental review, I think that process will strengthen what we already have,” said Fedrigo. “The [Temporary Use Permit] process I know right now is not strong, but it will be able to do what we need to along with business licences.”

Fedrigo added that her feeling was to continue dealing with matters in house at the RDOS through the vacation review and land-use designations without using potentially stricter provincial regulations.

Staff said that they are planning in the future to come back to the RDOS’ planning committee to scope a project to address issues with the TUP process and particularly tackle the subject of proactive or reactive enforcement for things like vacation rentals.

Provincial Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon praised the directors who voted to opt-in in a statement issued March 22.

“Rural areas aren’t immune to the housing crisis. By voting yesterday to request opt-in to our short-term rental legislation, the Okanagan Lake West, Skaha West and Skaha East and OK Falls electoral areas are telling people in their communities that they should not have to compete with speculators when they’re looking for a place to call home,” said Kahlon.

“I welcome this decision and am glad to have more partners on board with us to protect housing supply, so we can ensure homes are used by people, and not as investments.

“We are already hearing from people who are living in homes that have been returned back to the long-term housing market in other communities as a result of the actions we’ve taken. This is another important step as we work to deliver more homes for people, faster.”

For the three areas that have opted in, the regulations will take effect starting Nov. 1, 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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