Radium council members met with local hotel and motel representatives in January and again last week to discuss issues with short-term rentals.
Some of the accommodators’ concerns – including those Michael Anderson, president of True Key Hotels and Resorts, raised in a report – are: that accommodators are having financial difficulties, that some are struggling to fill their rooms, and that hotel operators may leave the community if short-term rentals are allowed to continue.
Deb James, from Inn on Canyon, spoke at the Radium council meeting on Wednesday, February 12 to share her feedback.
“The accommodators are at their wits’ end … It is killing our industry,” James said bluntly. “We have a wild west, a gold rush, happening right now.”
While she asked for an outright ban on short-term rentals as it would be the easiest solution to enforce, she acknowledged that it would be “a real unpopular subject.”
If council doesn’t want to move forward with a full ban, she would at least like to see short-term rentals prohibited during the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall.
“This is a huge issue for everyone. It’s all about money,” she said. “We need that short-term rental money in the spring and fall to get through the winter.”
She noted that the current closure at the Radium Hot Springs pools is making the situation even more dire for accommodators and suggested fees, taxes and licences would be needed to even the playing field between commercial accommodators and those offering their units for short-term rentals.
“Everybody’s making money. We need it sustainable so everybody has a share and it works,” she said.
Regardless of how council chooses to proceed, she wants to see regulations in place by June 1.
“The rush has started. We have run out of time,” she said, adding that there are around 200 short-term rentals in the area at the moment, that she fears many more may follow, and that the community can’t afford to let the free-for-all continue.
Unless council limits or regulates short-term rentals she warned: “you’re not going to have accommodators here anymore.”
Anderson also spoke at council and said he was opposed to letting short-term rentals continue “getting a free ride.”
Allowing Airbnb rentals is like letting unregulated hot-dog carts set up downtown and undercut commercial restaurants that have commercial expenses, he said.
“It’s difficult to compete when your competitors have a much much lower cost to operate,” he said.
Short-term rentals pay employees under the table, he said, adding that doing so drives up labour costs for legitimate businesses.
Short-term rentals are also “making housing unavailable” and mean that the community doesn’t have affordable housing where potential employees could live, he said.
Councillor Dale Shudra asked if banning short-term rentals in Radium would simply result in would-be visitors staying elsewhere in the valley “which doesn’t help you at all.”
While Anderson would like to see consistent valley-wide regulations for short-term rentals, he wants Radium to get moving rather than risk waiting on the District of Invermere and the Regional District of East Kootenay.
“A lot of people might starve to death between now and then,” he said.
Council was opposed to banning short-term rentals but intends to discuss regulatory options at a Committee of the Whole meeting.
Councillor Mike Gray said a meeting earlier in the week with accommodators, chamber of commerce representatives and council members left him hopeful about finding a workable compromise to regulate short-term rentals.
Once the ideas of banning short-term rentals or giving them free reign were ruled out, he said “we’re not as far apart as it may seem.”