Van­cou­ver coun­cil reg­u­lates Airbnb, short-term rentals

Van­cou­ver res­i­dents must ob­tain an­nual li­cence and pay one-time ac­ti­va­tion fee

The Province - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL CHAN chchan@post­media.com twit­ter.com/cherylchan

Van­cou­ver has joined the ranks of large cities around the world that have moved to reg­u­late Airbnb and other short-term rental plat­forms.

On Tues­day, coun­cil ap­proved reg­u­la­tions to ad­dress the more than 6,000 short-term rentals in the city, fi­nally le­gal­iz­ing an in­dus­try that has ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity over re­cent years de­spite op­er­at­ing in a grey zone.

“This is a straight­for­ward reg­u­la­tory ap­proach,” mayor Gre­gor Robertson said. “It is def­i­nitely bal­anced in terms of cities around the world and how they ap­proach this.”

Robertson said short-term rentals af­fect the rental hous­ing sup­ply, par­tic­u­larly in cities like Van­cou­ver where there is a rental hous­ing crunch and a near-zero rental va­cancy rate.

The new rules “will make sure that al­most 80 per cent of those (short­term rentals) cur­rently out there are ac­tu­ally le­gal rather than il­le­gal, and that (with) the bal­ance we see some re­turn to long-term rentals,” he said.

The city es­ti­mates about 1,000 units will re­turn to the long-term mar­ket.

The de­ci­sion came on the same day Airbnb an­nounced it is set­ting a 120day cap a year for hosts rent­ing out a prop­erty in cen­tral Paris. On Mon­day, Seat­tle city coun­cil voted to im­pose a tax of $8 per night for rooms or $14 per night for en­tire homes on short-term rental op­er­a­tors start­ing 2019.

The is­sue of how to reg­u­late short­term rentals in Van­cou­ver drew more than 100 speak­ers to two days of pub­lic hear­ings in Oc­to­ber.

Crit­ics of Airbnb say the home-shar­ing gi­ant is ex­ac­er­bat­ing Van­cou­ver’s tight rental hous­ing mar­ket be­cause it is more lu­cra­tive for land­lords to cater to tourists rather than its res­i­dents. Sup­port­ers of Airbnb say the abil­ity to rent out their homes on a part-time ba­sis helps them make ends meet.

Un­der the new rules, which would take ef­fect April 1, 2018, home­own­ers or renters can rent out part or all of their prin­ci­pal homes for less than 30 days at a time af­ter get­ting a $49 an­nual li­cence and pay­ing a $54 one-time ac­ti­va­tion fee.

Short-term rentals are pro­hib­ited for sec­ondary homes, sec­ondary suites and laneway homes — a point that drew fire from prop­erty own­ers un­able to put their homes up for longterm rentals who said the reg­u­la­tions are de­priv­ing them of much-needed in­come.

“We think that is un­nec­es­sar­ily re­stric­tive,” said Airbnb pol­icy di­rec­tor Alex Dagg, cit­ing Airbnb data that shows home­own­ers shar­ing a sec­ondary suite only rent out the units on av­er­age for three months every year. “Th­ese are not, in our view, units that will be go­ing back to the long-term mar­ket.”

There are about 550 sec­ondary suites in Van­cou­ver on their plat­form, Airbnb says. The ma­jor­ity of Airbnb hosts rent out their pri­mary homes.

Un­der the new rules, op­er­a­tors are re­quired to in­clude the busi­ness li­cence on their list­ing or face a fine of up to $1,000.

— GETTY IMAGES FILES

Airbnb pol­icy di­rec­tor Alex Dagg says the City of Van­cou­ver’s reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit­ing res­i­dents from list­ing sec­ondary homes or suites as short-term rentals is ‘un­nec­es­sar­ily re­stric­tive.’

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