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Kamloops city council backs Sun Peaks bid for exemption from foreign homebuyer ban

Resort community argues unique needs, tourist economy justify exemption
Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality is seeking an exemption to the federal government’s ban on foreign nationals buying homes in Canada.

Kamloops city council has agreed to support the municipality of Sun Peaks as it seeks an exemption to the federal government’s ban on foreign nationals buying homes in Canada.

Len Hrycan, a councillor for the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality and a former high-ranking City of Kamloops employee, visited Kamloops council chambers on Tuesday to ask for a letter of support for the regulatory exemption.

Hrycan said foreign owners in Sun Peaks represent 17 per cent of property ownership, and foreign visitors represent 37 per cent of all overnight visits, contributing more than $50 million in tourist spending per year to the economy.

“Foreign owners are a very important part, and are committed regular visitors — so quite often we will see foreign owners coming back time and time again to Sun Peaks to contribute to the economy,” he said.

“More importantly, most foreign owners place their properties in short-term nightly rental accommodation within the resort community.”

Hrycan said Sun Peaks has a significant population fluctuation, and the more than n our particular situation, we have a significant population fluctuation, with more than 750,000 annual visitors who need accommodation.

“The hotel sector simply cannot provide the degree of accommodation that is needed. So these foreign owned properties certainly contribute back in that positive way.”

Hrycan said the federal Prohibition of the Purchase of Residential Property act impacts Sun Peaks as it designates the municipality as a census metropolitan area of Kamloops.

He noted the foreign buyer ban doesn’t apply to more than 250 resorts in Canada — including Whistler and Big White — while only Sun Peaks, Silver Star and Apex Mountain Resort were impacted.

To be included in a central metropolitan area, a municipality must have a high degree of integration with a core area — but Hrycan said Sun Peaks doesn’t fit that definition.

The resort municipality is more physically remote than Kamloops, and there isn’t a high enough number of the workforce making a commute between the two communities to fit the government’s definition.

‘We are seeking your support in acknowledging that Sun Peaks and Kamloops have distinctly different economies and different housing needs. Because non-Canadians can purchase properties in Whistler, Big White and many other resorts. across Canada, Sun Peaks should have a regulatory exemption from this legislation,” Hrycan said.

He acknowledged Sun Peaks isn’t without its housing challenges, noting the municipality has applied for grant funds to help boost affordable housing stock, and the resort employer is in the process of building more housing units for staff.

He said council is finding that local businesses are attempting to rent accommodations — even entire homes — to house their employees.

Council voted unanimously in favour of sending a letter to Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister, and Sean Fraser, minister of housing and infrastructure — and copying Frank Caputo — supporting Sun Peaks’ request for an exemption from the foreign buyer ban.

Hrycan noted Freeland and Fraser have the power to approve an exemption, and no major cabinet decision would be required.