City of Vancouver may soon be forced to release Airbnb license data

The housing challenges plaguing Vancouver have been well documented, and some say Airbnb is playing a big role in the housing crisis.

While licensing data for businesses operating in Vancouver is released by the city, until now the city has not shared numbers when it comes to Airbnb.

Thanks to the ongoing work of a group of housing activists, Vancouver may soon have to release this information.

Rohana Rezel, local housing activist and former candidate for Vancouver City Council posted the news about the changes on its website.

Rezel argues that Airbnb should be banned altogether in Vancouver — a city that’s struggling to keep up with housing demand.

“The City of Vancouver should make cracking down on Airbnb a priority.”

Why take Airbnb?

Daily Hive contacted Rezel to ask why this was so important.

Rezel pointed to the housing crisis.

“One in five Vancouverites spends 50% or more of their income on rent. There are thousands visibly homeless and tens of thousands living in vans or couch surfing with friends. At the same time, we’ve seen study after study that shows Airbnb is a major factor in making housing unaffordable by taking long-term rentals out of the market.

He said he was furious that Vancouver was not working for its citizens.

“I found it infuriating that the City of Vancouver would side with a predatory multinational corporation instead of working for the citizens of Vancouver. I felt the political leadership let us down, especially the tenants. I knew I had to act because our leaders certainly weren’t.

Rezel also mentioned the length of the court process and how the City of Vancouver “deployed an army of lawyers to argue their case.”

According to Rezel, the result of this decision will be that every Airbnb listing will potentially be subject to public scrutiny.

“Audiences will be able to easily identify bad actors. Under such scrutiny, the City will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to what fraudsters are doing. The City of Vancouver will have to get much tougher with enforcement.

Just before Christmas last year, the The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPCBC) ruled in favor of Rezel.

The OIPCBC document states that “the request requested information on short-term rental accommodation and Airbnb in the City of Vancouver.”

“The City refused access to the information requested under ss. 15(1) (infringement of law enforcement), 19(1) (infringement of personal safety), 21(1) (infringement of commercial interests of third parties) and 22(1) (infringement of privacy of third parties) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“The arbitrator found that the City was authorized or required to deny access to a small portion of the information under ss. 15(1)(f), 19(1)(a) and 21(1). However, none of the exceptions applied to the rest of the disputed information and the City was ordered to disclose it to the plaintiff.

Daily Hive contacted the City of Vancouver and, according to their records, Airbnb actually filed a motion for judicial review of the OIPCBC’s decision.

“Airbnb waited until the last possible day to file for judicial review. The city could have released the information sooner if it wanted to,” Rezel said in response.

“I expect the case to be dismissed soon.”

Many housing activists have suggested that Airbnb displace potential tenants. This Ulrike Rodrigues’ blog — a vocal housing activist who tragically died last year — sheds light on some of the potential problems Airbnb creates for renters.

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