City coun­cil le­gal­izes short-term rentals

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL CHAN

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,” said Mayor Gre­gor Robertson. “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 (short-term 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 120-day 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 in 2019.

The is­sue of how to reg­u­late short-term rentals drew more than 100 speak­ers to two days of pub­lic hear­ings in Oc­to­ber.

Crit­ics of Airbnb say the home­shar­ing 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, 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 long-term 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 rent out the units on av­er­age for only 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, says Airbnb. The ma­jor­ity of hosts rent out 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.

To en­sure com­pli­ance, the city will have a ded­i­cated en­force­ment co-or­di­na­tor and an ad­di­tional in­spec­tor to sup­port com­plaint­driven in­spec­tions and au­dits.

Some NPA coun­cil­lors who voted against the pro­posal ex­pressed con­cern over the costs of en­force­ment. “We’re just cre­at­ing more bu­reau­cracy and more tax­a­tion ... and we’re not solv­ing the prob­lem,” said Coun. Ge­orge Af­fleck. “It’s just mak­ing it a harder place to live for everybody.”

Coun­cil also passed an amend­ment by Coun. Tim Steven­son that will re­quire staff to re­assess the ban on sec­ondary suites if the city’s rental va­cancy rate hits four per cent.

Dagg said Airbnb will meet with the city next week to dis­cuss the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new reg­u­la­tions. She also said it is im­por­tant other short-term rental plat­forms com­ply with the rules.

Airbnb, which has an 82 per cent mar­ket share in Van­cou­ver, is the only plat­form that par­tic­i­pated in the pub­lic hear­ings.

MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Van­cou­ver’s new rules reg­u­lat­ing home-shar­ing com­pa­nies like Airbnb will take ef­fect on April 1.

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