Airbnb growth is highest in Richmond

Reservations in Richmond have more than tripled from a year ago, the spokesperson said.

Richmond led the way in Airbnb booking growth this fall, beating out Toronto, Kamloops and Lions Bay.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends a lot on who you’re talking to.

The list was compiled by looking at nights booked in a city or town year over year for cities with a minimum of 50 nights booked in 2021, Airbnb spokesman Matt McNama explained.

“Richmond was by far number one,” he said, adding that bookings for the city had more than tripled from the same time last year.

McNama said one of the main reasons for Richmond and Toronto’s popularity is the proximity to Canada’s two largest airports. He attributes the growth to the rebound in travel as travel restrictions around the world are eased.

Bookings at Airbnbs have also lengthened since the COVID-19 pandemic, McNama said, which could be because people have more freedom with remote work and “really want to travel.”

“Globally, 20% of our bookings are for more than two weeks. And this is the first time this has happened,” he said.

Complaints about Airbnbs and short-term listings

Despite the city’s popularity with travelers and remote workers, short-term rentals such as Airbnbs remain a contentious issue with many Richmond residents.

In a previous interview with Richmond NewsVancouver housing advocate Rohana Rezel had warned that unregulated short-term rental listings could pose a threat to rental housing availability in Richmond.

“The accommodations that could have housed the family are being used as short-term hotels,” Rezel said.

“And that has a really negative impact on the neighborhood. You have people throwing parties, committing crimes, and Airbnb brings it all together.

According to City of Richmond regulations, short-term rentals of less than 30 days, such as those listed on Airbnb, require one of two types of permits: bed and breakfast or boarding and lodging. And short-term rentals of entire homes or residential units are “not permitted under any circumstances.”

Currently, Richmond has 61 licensed breads and breakfasts, 17 boarding and lodging licenses and two pending license applications. But according to research by The News, there are hundreds of listings for different types of homes on Airbnb, including entire apartments and homes.

Last August, the city received 40 complaints about short-term rentals and issued eight violation tickets.

The number of complaints has remained constant during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 36 in 2021 and 43 in 2020. Eleven tickets were issued in 2021.

However, the city anticipates an increase in complaints as travel resumes, city spokesman Clay Adams said.

In 2019, the City of Richmond told the News that its staff routinely reviews listings on various platforms to identify illegal operations, and that progress has been made in reducing supply despite the difficulties.

However, locating such operations isn’t easy, Adams said, because listings typically don’t provide addresses until the reservation has been made. Some cities have artificial intelligence software to identify places from photos, but Richmond does not currently have access to it.

And even when the city manages to locate an unauthorized suspicious operation, it still has to go through the “labour-intensive” process to monitor it and detect the breach.

Tickets are issued as a last resort for violations of regulations, Adams added.

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