News / Vancouver

5,000 rental units in Vancouver are lost to short-term rentals

The city is expected to report the findings to council with full results of the research and recommendations on regulation of short-term rentals in the fall.

A view of the Vancouver skyline as seen from the Burrard Civic Marina on March 11, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.

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A view of the Vancouver skyline as seen from the Burrard Civic Marina on March 11, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.

While Vancouver sits at a low 0.6 per cent long-term rental vacancy rate, independent analysis of the rental market gathered over the past year has found more than 5,000 units listed up as short-term rentals, of which 85 per cent are listed through Airbnb.

This is a problem, according to Coun. Geoff Meggs, particularly as the rising public discourse of affordable housing becomes more and more prominent.

"I'm concerned, but not surprised," Meggs told Metro on Sunday. "The number of short-term rentals is skyrocketing and undoubtedly having an impact on our long-term rental stock."

Currently, 75 per cent of the short-term rentals are listed as full-sized homes, condos, or apartments. Airbnb also released a report recently stating their listings have doubled every year since 2013.

The city is expected to report the findings to council with full results of the research and recommendations on regulation of short-term rentals in the fall. The recommendations are aimed to support the city's Rental 100 program, which encourages developers to make buildings comprised of 100 per cent rental units by providing incentives such as relaxed unit sizes, increased density, and the waiving of the development cost levy. This was put in place to help create 5,000 rental units by 2021.

Before then, they are opening a public opinion survey for residents to provide feedback on this topic, which begins July 20.

"It's not about prohibition," Meggs said. "It's about making sure there's compliance of other rules, like protection of long-term rentals."

Personally, he takes issue with how the sites allow people to sign-up and list their property for rent, which he counts as conducting a business and therefore each lister should carry a business license.

"I hear those who say, 'This is nasty to me. I just want to make a little bit of money'," Meggs said. "That's fine, but you're in business though, and when you're in business you have to follow certain rules."

Obtaining a license could be as simple as integrating an online purchasing option on these websites, he added.

Airbnb recently released a report stating their commitment to working with the city to ensure the community pays its fair share of hotel and tourist taxes, to be transparent with their information, and for working with cities which suffer from a shortage of long-term housing to prevent short-term listings from impacting long-term rental availability.

"Recently, we have been engaged in a series of productive conversations with officials in Vancouver about crafting smart, fair rules that allow regular people to continue sharing their homes and making ends meet," the report stated.

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