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Vancouver regulations on Airbnb-like rentals go to public hearing

But some councillors expressed concerns about the city’s ability to enforce the proposed rules

Vancouver city council has a referred staff's proposed rules on regulating short-term rentals to a public hearing in fall 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Vancouver city council has a referred staff's proposed rules on regulating short-term rentals to a public hearing in fall 2017.

Vancouver is one step closer to regulating Airbnb-like rentals after city council decided Tuesday to schedule a public hearing on staff’s proposed rules for the fall. 

NPA councillors George Affleck, Melissa De Genova, and Elizabeth Ball voted to not refer the matter to a public hearing but were overruled by their Vision Vancouver and Green Party colleagues.

If approved, the proposed regulations would legalize short-term rentals in Vancouver with the exception of those in secondary suites, second homes, and laneway homes. Those who want to list their place for short-term rental would have to obtain a business licence first.

Many of the questions that councillors asked staff had to do with enforcement. The staff report predicted a 24 to 40 per cent compliance rate to the new rules.

“I worry that these policies will drive the issue underground,” said Coun. Affleck.

The city’s head of buildings development and licencing, Kaye Krishna, acknowledged there will be challenges regulating an industry where there are already 6,000 operators conducting business illegally, but pointed out the proposed rules include a new “data-driven approach” to enforcement.

For instance, short-term rental operators will be required to post their business licence on their listings, giving staff an avenue to audit those operators. In addition, business licences for short-term rentals are in line with other similar businesses, at $49 per year.

“We wanted to create a very low barrier to get as many people into compliance as possible,” said Krishna.

The city will likely have help enforcing the rules, added chief licencing inspector Kathryn Holm.

Although the new rules would allow both property owners and renters to operate short-term rentals out of their home, strata councils of multi-family properties can still limit this kind of activity or ban it altogether, she confirmed.

City staff have already heard from many strata councils that want to ban all short-term rentals in their buildings, she told Metro on Monday.

“I have heard from a lot of stratas saying they want to do this. They are happy to continue to be partners of ours in enforcement,” she said.

When voting, Affleck questioned the need for the proposed regulations given the stabilizing of the short-term rental industry and De Genova said she would like more information from staff before moving the matter to a public hearing.

If approved by council, the proposed rules could come into effect as early as April 2018.

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