Kelowna looking at allowing short-term rentals like Airbnb in secondary suites, carriage houses

As part of its ongoing regulation of short-term rentals, the City of Kelowna is looking at allowing short-term rentals like AirBnB in secondary suites and carriage houses.

Regulation of short-term rentals in the city has been controversial with some concerned they take away from the available rental stock while others support them as a way to help homeowners pay their mortgages without the risk of long-term renters.

Watch: Kelowna set to issues licences for short-term rentals (April 13)

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At a city council meeting this week, council will consider the idea of allowing the short-term rentals in secondary suites and carriage houses, a practice that is not allowed under the original short-term rental regulation that came into effect last month.

If the city does allow short-term rentals in secondary suites and carriage houses, city staff is recommending that property owners are restricted to only one short-term rental, with a maximum of two bedrooms, on their property and that owners are required to live onsite and provide a parking space for the short-term rental unit.

However, according to city staff, allowing secondary suites and carriage houses to be rented out short-term would likely mean fewer long-term rental options on the market.

If the proposed change does take some secondary suites and carriage houses out of the long-term rental market, as city staff predict it will, it could make finding an affordable long-term rental more difficult.

In her report to city council, community planning supervisor Laura Bentley, notes that “on average in Kelowna, rent for secondary suites and carriage houses is 13 per cent less than for purpose-built rental apartments.”

The idea is expected to go to a public hearing before any decision is made but a 2017 survey suggests there is public support for allowing secondary suites and carriage houses to be used as short-term rentals.

“Just over 60 per cent of respondents indicated that secondary suites and carriage house should be used for short-term rentals,” noted Bentley in her report to council.

During a public hearing on general short-term rental regulation in March, some AirBnB hosts said they needed the extra finances to maintain their property ownership in Kelowna’s expensive market.

At the public hearing, several homeowners said long-term renters are too financially risky, citing the cost of dealing with bad renters as the reason they turned to university and college students eight months of the year and Airbnb for the other four months.

Meanwhile, those who spoke from the hotel industry talked about needing the regulations to level the playing field within the short-term rental industry.

Watch: Kelowna moves to limit short-term rentals (Dec. 2018)

Airbnb has said that the typical host in Kelowna only rents out their place 43 nights a year and makes less than $10,000 on providing the service annually.

Whatever the city decides, it could have a wide-ranging impact. In her report to council Bentley estimates 2,247 legal suites and carriage houses already exist in Kelowna.

– with files from Jules Knox and Doris Bregolisse

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