It’s no secret that there are hundreds of short-term rentals in Penticton, B.C.
However, with new provincial-wide regulations aimed at cracking down on these short-term rentals, local officials say it could have a major impact on the local tourism industry.
“The people that are staying in short-term rental facilities don’t necessarily want to stay in a hotel,” said The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce executive director Michael Magnusson.
“While we do have beautiful hotels in and throughout the South Okanagan, families or large groups often prefer to rent a house for different periods of time, and sometimes it comes at a different price point as well. A hotel doesn’t fit every traveller’s needs.”
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According to the Chamber, a housing study by the city showed that licensed short-term rental properties that had been inspected and authorized by the city accounted for just over 2 per cent of Penticton’s overall housing inventory.
Meanwhile, Airbnb contributes over 25 per cent to Penticton’s overall tourist economy, which is an industry that employs almost 10 per cent of Penticton’s total workforce.
“You take that away and that is a big hit to our tourism, economic activity,” said Magnusson.
Magnusson went on to say that without a diverse number of places for tourists to stay, they might choose to vacation elsewhere.
“My fear with regards to tourism is that if you really do want to stay in a short-term rental, and they’re not available in British Columbia, or at least to the standards that you expect, they’re going to go south, and we’ve just lost out on that economic activity,” said Magnusson.
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The goal of the new rules is to eliminate short-term rentals in homes that are not the host’s principal residence in hopes of opening up some much-needed long-term rental spaces.
However, BC Real Estate Association economist Ryan McLaughlin says this could be a double-edged sword.
“The flip side is we’re going to have a lot fewer short-term rentals and people that want to use that for tourism purposes that could make it more expensive to be a tourist in British Columbia,” said McLaughlin.
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“It just reduces the number of units that are available for people. Tourism is a very important sector in British Columbia. So that could have negative consequences for economic growth or incomes.”
Penticton’s Short-Term Rental Benefits and Impacts study found that at times there are over 500 short-term rentals listed on various sites in 2022 throughout the community, but not all properties were licensed.
“The one thing we like about the new rules is that Airbnb and VRBO, all those online platforms will be compelled to share their data with the province,” said Magnusson.
“And in turn, we would like to see the province share that with the cities so that we can manage our short-term rentals, both the licensed and, more importantly, identifying the unlicensed and potentially unsafe rentals that are being advertised throughout our cities.”
The chamber is now calling on the provincial government to amend the legislation to better fit each community.
“I think these rules came about very quickly, and to my knowledge, I don’t know who was consulted,” said Magnusson.
“We do know that some cities are embracing this and that’s great for them — if these rules help them and their housing inventory then fantastic — but what we’re saying is don’t make it a one-size-fits-all approach.”
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