Van­cou­ver lim­its short-term rentals

Times Colonist - - Business - LAURA KANE

Van­cou­ver has banned own­ers of base­ment suites and laneway houses from list­ing them on Airbnb af­ter a heated de­bate in which some city coun­cil­lors warned that home­own­ers would not be able to pay their mort­gages with­out the ex­tra in­come.

City coun­cil ap­proved new reg­u­la­tions in a 7-4 vote Tues­day for va­ca­tion web­sites such as Airbnb and Ex­pe­dia. The rules pro­hibit hosts from list­ing homes that are not their prin­ci­pal res­i­dence, in­clud­ing any sec­ondary suites on their prop­erty.

Mayor Gre­gor Robertson and mem­bers of his Vi­sion Van­cou­ver party de­fended the rules as nec­es­sary be­cause the va­cancy rate is just above zero and hous­ing is needed for long-term renters.

“I’m stunned to hear that some coun­cil­lors don’t be­lieve there’s a prob­lem here. We have 6,000 il­le­gal short-term rentals in the city,” he said. “I can’t imag­ine do­ing noth­ing.”

The new reg­u­la­tions will come into ef­fect on April 1. Hosts must buy a busi­ness li­cence that costs $49 an­nu­ally, plus spend $54 on a one-time ap­pli­ca­tion fee, and dis­play their li­cence num­ber in on­line list­ing. Those who fail to com­ply will face a $1,000 ticket per vi­o­la­tion.

Home­own­ers will still be al­lowed to list an in­di­vid­ual room inside their prin­ci­pal res­i­dence. Ten­ants who are rent­ing a base­ment apart­ment or laneway house will be al­lowed to list it on Airbnb, as long as it’s their prin­ci­pal res­i­dence and they have per­mis­sion from the owner.

Some short-term rental hosts crit­i­cized the pro­posed rules at a pub­lic hear­ing last month, say­ing the changes will de­prive them of much-needed in­come.

Coun­cil­lors from the op­pos­ing Non-Par­ti­san As­so­ci­a­tion echoed those con­cerns on Tues­day, with Coun. Ge­orge Af­fleck warn­ing that home­own­ers who de­pend on the ex­tra in­come will be forced to leave Van­cou­ver or lead “very chal­leng­ing lives.”

Af­fleck said the city should in­stead fo­cus on en­sur­ing more rental hous­ing gets built. “We’re just cre­at­ing more bu­reau­cracy, more tax­a­tion, more sticks and we’re not solv­ing the prob­lem. We’re mak­ing Van­cou­ver more un­af­ford­able and a harder place to live, whether you’re a renter or an owner,” he said.

But Coun. An­drea Reimer of Vi­sion Van­cou­ver said sec­ondary suites and laneway houses were ap­proved to pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion for lo­cal res­i­dents, not tourists.

She said she just re­ceived an evic­tion no­tice at her rental home on Mon­day night — her sec­ond evic­tion in 16 months due to “spec­u­la­tion and flip­ping.”

If the va­cancy rate rises to four per cent or higher, city staff will re­port back to coun­cil on whether to al­low own­ers to list their sec­ondary suites on short­term rental web­sites.

Van­cou­ver is the lat­est ju­ris­dic­tion to crack down on va­ca­tion web­sites. Seat­tle coun­cil voted Mon­day to im­pose a levy of $14 US per night for short-term rentals of en­tire homes, and $8 per night for rooms, with the taxes to kick in by 2019.

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