New legislation coming from the B.C. government will regulate short-term rentals in cities across the province, but City of Kamloops zoning bylaws already restrict such property use to an even greater degree.
Last month, the province introduced legislation which would limit short-term rentals to within a host’s primary residence, or a basement suite or laneway home on their own property.
However, Will Beatty, acting community services manager for the City of Kamloops, said under the zoning bylaw, no one can operate a short-term rental in the city — with few exceptions.
“Realistically, you cannot — regardless if it’s your primary residence or not,” Beatty said.
Beatty said as per the zoning bylaw, a short term rental essentially falls into the category of a hotel or motel, as the building is being used for the temporary accommodation of the travelling public. Such property use is not permitted in residential areas.
Beatty noted the caveat is for situations like a bed and breakfast, where there are shared kitchen facilities, and guests are classified as “boarders or lodgers” under the bylaw. In this case, operators could be using an online short-term rental platform for marketing purposes, but the use of the property is different.
Marvin Kwiatkowski, the city’s development, engineering and sustainability director, said there isn’t even a short-term rentals definition that appears in the bylaw.
“We simply don’t allow them,” Kwiatkowski said.
“We allow bed and breakfasts as a site-specific rezone but the owner resides in the home. … You have a separate little bed and breakfast room, that's the traditional bed and breakfast — that’s all we allow.”
Kwiatkowski said he doesn’t believe the incoming provincial legislation will have as much of an impact locally as it will in other cities. He noted there are short-term rental properties in Kamloops, but he hasn’t seen the same type of housing pressure brought on by vacation rentals as other cities are experiencing.
In October, the City of Kelowna proposed banning short-term rentals from most areas in the city. At the time, there were 1,191 valid business licenses for rentals in specific zones, while another 764 had been issued for exempt areas. Many more properties are unlicensed.
On Tuesday, Kelowna's council decided to delay making a decision on the matter until the province has formally introduced its legislation.
Kwiatkowski said he doesn’t know of any moves to make changes to Kamloops bylaws, adding making the bylaw less restrictive wouldn’t fit with the mandate of the province to open up space for more long-term units in the face of a housing shortage.
Tara Holmes, who operates an AirBnB out of her home in Kamloops, estimated there’s about 300 short-term rental listings in the city.
She noted the basement she rents out has a separate driveway to avoid neighbourhood parking difficulties, doesn’t have a kitchen, and simply serves as a space for someone to “put their head down” for a night and carry on their way in the morning.
She said she was happy to hear about the new provincial legislation, but hopes there will be a place for the type of “respectfully” operated suite she offers in Kamloops.
“Once the provincial law comes in, [guests] have to live in your home, that's going to change it up for a lot of people — they’re going to either have to turn [suites] into long term rentals or sell them off,” Holmes said.
“But for people like me, who live in our homes that are doing it sort of the right way. I don't know. Like are they suddenly going to try and shut everybody down?”
According to Beatty, at this time, the city only gets involved if there are complaints about a property. Fines can be be issued for the zoning contravention, from a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $10,000 for each offence.
“If that person is still operating that short term rental platform we can issue them fines daily, but we have to go to court,” Beatty said, adding he has one such case heading to court in the near future.
Beatty noted the upcoming legislation will improve things for cities from an enforcement perspective. The province said it intends to increase the maximum municipal ticketing fine a local government may issue.
He said when it comes to City of Kamloops bylaws, he doesn’t know if there’s an appetite to amend them, but noted the city takes concerns of citizens into account.
"We try and make sure that the bylaws meet the needs of our community versus what's going on elsewhere," Beatty said.
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