News / Vancouver

Tell Vancouver city council how you feel about Airbnb rules

Vancouver has proposed new regulations to limit Airbnb listings to primary residences.

A seagull flies past Yaletown condos at sunset in Vancouver, B.C., on February 25, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A seagull flies past Yaletown condos at sunset in Vancouver, B.C., on February 25, 2013.

Vancouver city council is holding a public hearing tonight on its proposed new rules to both legalize and regulate short-term rental sites like Airbnb.

The public session starts tonight on the third floor of city hall at 6 p.m. You can sign up to speak online until 5 p.m., or in person between 5:30 and 6 p.m.

Keep in mind that if a lot of people sign up to speak, public hearings will be extended to the next day. Public hearings happen in advance of property rezonings or bylaw changes, and directly inform city councillors’ decision-making.

Under the regulations proposed by city staff, hosts would need to get and display a business licence on their listing; would only be able to rent their principal residence; and would need permission from their landlord if they are renting the property.

The cost of the business licence would be $49 a year, while guests would pay a three per cent transaction fee, similar to a hotel tax, to the booking platform, which will eventually go to the city as well.

The rules mean property owners would not be allowed to rent out basement suites or laneway houses for less than 30 days, or empty apartments they own.

The new regulations come as Vancouver struggles with a very low rental vacancy rate and a steep increase in rents. Renters across the region have struggled to keep or find new places as landlords aspired to match the new, higher rents or sold houses to capitalize on the region’s inflated real estate market.

Vancouver hopes to increase the rental supply by regulating short-term rental sites like Airbnb, Vacation Rental by Owner and HomeAway.

Airbnb has said that 80 per cent of Vancouver hosts are listing their primary residence, and has portrayed its platform as a way people living in an expensive city can make some extra money to help cover their mortgage or rent.

But according to an analysis from David Wachsmuth, a professor at McGill University, larger, commercial operators with multiple, entire-home listings are making the bulk of revenues. In Vancouver, 20 per cent of the hosts make 70 per cent of the revenue, according to his analysis.

Airbnb says it would support a British Columbia-wide hotel tax.

But Wachsmuth and the group Fairbnb have said Vancouver should require platforms like Airbnb to commit to monitoring their own platforms and removing listings that do not conform to local bylaws, rather than relying on city staff to monitor and enforce the rules.

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