News / Vancouver

Vancouver to investigate Airbnb’s impact on rental housing

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will support a motion at council next week to research the impact of Airbnb on rental housing in the city.

A map of Airbnb rentals in Vancouver from Inside Airbnb.

A map of Airbnb rentals in Vancouver from Inside Airbnb.

Vancouver politicians intend to investigate whether short-term rental services such as Airbnb are hurting the rental housing market in a city where rental vacancy rates hover near zero.

Complaints about short-term rentals are on the rise from both renters and homeowners, according to Mayor Gregor Robertson, who announced his support for a motion going to council next week that directs staff to gather data on short-term rentals and how they might impact affordability in Vancouver.

The motion comes amidst speculation that more owners are opting to rent their places to tourists on Airbnb instead of to long-term tenants because it’s more lucrative. Robertson’s support almost certainly means Coun. Geoff Meggs’ motion will pass the Vision Vancouver majority council.

“We are looking at all tools available to the city to create a level playing field for access to affordable, quality rental housing,” Robertson said in a statement. “Collecting the data on short-term rentals is the first step to understanding its effects – both positive and negative – on our housing market, economy, and our residents.”

City bylaws prohibit rentals of less than 30 days without a business licence, but estimates by American and local researchers peg the number of Airbnb listings in Vancouver at more than 4,000. (The city aims to collect its own data by working with Airbnb and other short-term rental listing services.)

Municipalities are starting to crack down on Airbnb. Earlier this month, Tofino councillors passed a motion to take immediate action to ensure all owners renting their places on Airbnb had an appropriate business licence (these cost up to $375). The City of Burnaby is also looking into the issue after a Metro report on tenants who were shocked to see their home listed on Airbnb after they received an eviction notice for family use of property.  

Meggs’ motion stops short of calling for immediate action to regulate Airbnb, but he said the city plans to create a policy once it better understands the impact of short-term rentals.

“The complaints are steady but not in a tidal wave. I think that reflects that a lot of people are benefiting financially from Airbnb,” Meggs said.

Still, renters are worried about displacement, he said, adding he also hears from landlords concerned about liability if their tenants try to make extra cash by listing their apartments on Airbnb.

His motion asks staff to speed up their research and report back on how other cities handle Airbnb. Meggs hopes this will happen as quickly as possible so council can take action, although he believes the province might need to get involved to create a regional solution.

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