By Steve Hubrecht
There is a small pocket of peace in the Columbia Valley when it comes to short-term rentals (STRs).
The District of Invermere and the Village of Radium Hot Springs — the valley’s two biggest municipalities — and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), which includes the unincorporated communities of Windermere, Fairmont Hot Springs and Panorama Mountain Resort, have all seen explosive growth in the number of STRs in recent years. Consequently all three entities have been forced to create local regulations for STRs. But at the south end of the valley, in the Village of Canal Flats, STRs are not a big issue. In fact, they’re not even a small issue.
“We’re lucky,” Canal Flats mayor Mark Doherty told the Pioneer. “It’s not really affecting us at all.”
Doherty noted there is a grand total of just 12 STRs in Canal Flats.
That figure contrasts with about 180 STRs in Invermere.
“Most of the STRs we do have in Canal Flats are run by people who live in their homes and plan to be gone for the weekend. So, for the weekend, they rent out their homes to people who are visiting Canal Flats for a hockey tournament,” explained Doherty.
The Canal Flats arena is a major recreational hub and draws players and their families from all over B.C. and Alberta during the hockey season.
Doherty outlined that some of the 12 STRs in Canal Flats are in homes in the new subdivisions on the southeast part of Columbia Lake, and a couple are in the downtown part of the village.
He also pointed out that most Canal Flats STR operators are primary residents of the property they are renting out (in other words, they live full time in the homes they are renting as STRs). This means these STR operations already comply with the new STR provincial regulations being introduced by the B.C. government.
The new B.C. regulations, however, wouldn’t apply to Canal Flats in any event, since the village is well below the 10,000 municipal population threshold required for the new provincial rules to kick in.
Canal Flats chief administrative officer Richard Wayken shared similar sentiments as Doherty, and pointed out that although Canal Flats does get some visitors, they do not come in the sheer numbers that they do in Radium and Invermere.
“My perspective, from a personal standpoint, is that we do need some STRs,” Wayken told the Pioneer.
He pointed out there are very limited accommodation options in Canal Flats, and that when construction workers are in town to work on a project, for instance, they need somewhere to stay. The STRs fill that void nicely, explained Wayken.
“From that workforce perspective, we need them,” he said.