Vancouver cracks down on Airbnb
Under new rules, you must be the principal resident of the home you are listing.
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Vancouver city council voted to both legalize and regulate short-term rentals using platforms such as Airbnb, with the city’s mayor saying explosive growth in tourist-targeted short-term rentals are coming at the expense of city residents who can’t find a place to live.
“There’s wide-spread acknowledgement that short-term rentals do affect rental housing supply,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Particularly cities like Vancouver where we have a shortage of rental housing.”
Currently, it's illegal to rent a home for less than 30 days. The city believes up to 1,600 rental units could be returned to the long-term rental market, based on data Airbnb provided to them.
Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer gave a highly personal reason for voting for the new regulations: she’s been evicted 11 times over the past 20 years, twice within the past 16 months. Last night, she said, she returned home to find an eviction notice on her kitchen table.
“I have a number of friends who pay the rent or mortgage through Airbnb, people with kids who will go and stay with inlaws on the weekend in order to be able to afford rent for a three-bedroom apartment,” Reimer said.
“I also have friends who’ve been evicted from both laneway and secondary suites so they can be Airbnb'd.
“In every single case, those friends who have been evicted — and the number reaches into the double digits — all left the city. It was the challenge of finding housing but it was also the feeling that tourists are more important to your city than people who live here.”
The regulations approved by council on Tuesday will allow residents to short-term rent their house or apartment if it is their primary residence (residents can rent more than one room at a time, but only if it’s to the same guest). Homeowners will not be able to list laneway houses or basement suites on sites like Airbnb. The regulations won’t come into effect until April 2018.
Residents who want to rent a room in their home or their entire home for less than 30 days must also apply for a business licence, pay a $49 yearly fee and display their business licence number on their online listing.
Not allowing laneway houses and basement suites to be listed on sites like Airbnb troubled Non-Partisan Association councillors Elizabeth Ball and Melissa De Genova. During public hearings this fall, many people said they want to continue to use their basement suites for family visits and use Airbnb to make extra money.
De Genova, Ball and their NPA colleagues George Affleck and Hector Bremner voted against the proposal.
“It’s difficult for many seniors who don’t want to incur the extra work,” said Ball. “They’re not able to contemplate having a second job at that point in their lives. They say, ‘If it’s worth this much to me I can do it, but if it’s worth this much I can’t.’”
Allan Oas, a Kitsilano resident who lists his basement (two rooms, a bathroom and a hot plate), said he earns around $30,000 a year through Airbnb listings. Under the new rules, the rooms can still be listed as rooms in his house, but he said he believes the new regime will affect how he will be able to market the rooms.
De Genova warned that, along with the empty homes tax, the city is adding yet another layer of bureaucracy. She tallied the extra $256,000 the city expects to spend in enforcement, administration and a new communications hire to explain the new rules to Vancouverites.
Green Coun. Adriane Carr noted there are 30,000 secondary suites in Vancouver. She said these new regulations may return some to the long-term rental market — or prevent others from being converted to short-term rentals.