Debbie Wheeldon and her husband Dale own a short-term rental called Grandma’s Elephant Hideaway in Penticton, B.C.
The couple are “all about elephants” just like Dale’s late mother, who collected elephant pieces and was the inspiration behind creating the short-term rental.
“It works out really well. We meet all our guests, and they come in to wine and cookies or beer and other little things that we do for them,” said Debbie Wheeldon.
“We had a couple of families come last year before and they did their Christmas here. So, I had it all decorated up for Christmas with little stockings and candy canes and whatnot.”
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The pair have hosted a number of guests over the past few years and are often fully booked during the summer.
“We rented to a lot of different people, all of our renters are pretty much returning guests. We get a family from Alberta, this will be their third year for hockey tournaments,” said Wheeldon.
According to Wheeldon, the couple love running their short-term rental and have done everything they can to operate by the book and so far, have had no issues.
However, the new province-wide short-term rental regulations could force Grandma’s Elephant Hideaway to shut down.
“It’s hard to say because I mean we still have to pay the mortgage on it. We didn’t buy it to make tons of money on it but I mean, it’s our retirement fund basically,” said Wheeldon.
“I haven’t even really totally processed the feeling of how it is going to affect us. We even have in our strata that everybody’s OK with the short-term rental and if there’s a chance that we’re not home, our neighbours will come up and do the cookies, bring the wine and if the guests have any problems, then the neighbours are always willing to jump in and help.”
Currently, the City of Penticton is the only community in the South Okanagan that will be impacted by the new short-term rental regulations, as the new rules don’t apply to communities with a population under 10,000 or resort communities like Osoyoos.
“What we strive for is a balance because we are a tourist destination, but we’re also a residential destination,” said the Mayor of Penticton Julius Bloomfield.
“We have high residential areas, and we have high tourist areas, but we’re not a resort community. So, we are subject to the new regulations.”
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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 registered.
Grandma’s Elephant Hideaway is one of the around 400 registered short-term rentals in Penticton, which plays a major role in the local tourism industry.
“The great thing about Penticton is it’s a beautiful place to be, and that’s also the problem for us as well because there’s a lot of people that want to come and visit,” said Bloomfield. “Which is great but when regulations like this fall into place, it’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all for the entire province. Penticton is different from a lot of a lot of other cities.”
The city says they are looking into how the new regulations will impact the community.
“We’ve been busy trying to analyze how it’s going to affect the market in Penticton, both for current operators, the housing market, and the potential new developments in Penticton,” said Bloomfield.
“It’s mixed that and there’s very, very good arguments on both sides. So yes, it’s mixed, but we are a mixed community and that’s why we look for the balance.”
Meanwhile, Wheeldon hopes that they will be able to continue to operate their home away from home.
“The guests invite us up for wine, for a visit, like they’ve really become friends so that’s what we kind of go for now is friends and family. Because now all these people, lots of them have kind of become family,” said Wheeldon.
“We love it. We meet our guests; our guests love us. Some of them book before they leave. Some of them say it’s like coming home as soon as they open the door, it’s like coming home.”
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