The recently adopted Penticton Official Community Plan glosses over the fact that vacation rentals impact the city’s long-term rental housing stock and have a negative social impact on both neighbours and neighbourhoods.
A documented shortage of long-term rental housing exists in Penticton. This housing shortage, no doubt, prompted the city to organize the upcoming Hiring and Workforce Housing Forum to help address the problem.
The shortage of long-term rental housing in Penticton has been a long-standing problem. A 2010 report to city council pointed out the difficulty of finding affordable housing. This difficulty provided the rationale for council to approve carriage houses as a permitted use.
In contravention of the declared rationale, nowhere in the report is mention made of carriage houses being a means to address a vacation rental need. But the fact is they are being converted into vacation rentals because they can generate more income in three to four months than they would otherwise as long-term rental housing.
Ironically, there is no visitor accommodation shortage in Penticton. Visitor accommodation occupancy hovers around the 50 per cent mark and there is no shortage of visitor accommodation during event-related peaks.
The city sends a mixed message when on the one hand it approved carriage houses in 2010 to address a long-term housing need — a need that still exists — while on the other hand allows them to be stripped from the long-term rental housing stock and converted into vacation rentals.
Vacation rentals also have a negative social impact on neighbours and neighbourhoods. Peaceful residential neighbourhoods are turned into “neighbourhoods of transients” with local rules ignored creating problems for nearby residents. And they can easily become “party houses” that severely impact neighbours and drive down nearby home values.
Vacation rentals jeopardize local service jobs because of unfair competition and towns can lose out on tax revenue. When long-term rental housing such as carriage houses are removed from the long-term rental housing stock, rents increase.
While dealing with vacation rentals can be a complex issue, there is one simple step that city council can take to help address the city’s long-term rental housing shortage. Namely, remove carriage houses from the vacation rental pool and establish a one-month minimum rental period for them.
Hopefully, someone on council will accept there is a problem with vacation rentals and take the lead to resolve the matter.