How have Vancouver’s Airbnb rules affected the housing market?
Hundreds of landlords are still flouting the law almost a year after Vancouver introduced rules for short-term rentals, says a housing advocate who is unconvinced of the strength of the regulation.
City bylaws introduced April 19 require hosts to obtain a business license and state that a landlord can only rent their primary residence, or, if the residence is already long-term let, the tenant can operate a short-term rental. with the permission of the owner.
The initiative was the city’s response to short-term vacation rentals that were wreaking havoc on housing for long-term renters.
But Vancouver housing advocate Rohana Rezel, a council candidate in the last municipal election, said a quick examination of 4,000 Vancouver units listed on the site showed at least 800 in blatant violation of bylaws.
He said the hosts were getting around regulations by describing multiple units under a single listing or simply typing “exempt” as a license because the city does not have software to track and validate each license number.
“There were hosts who listed more than one unit, more than one house or an entire apartment,” Rezel said.
Rezel says these issues persist because the MoU between Airbnb and the city was flawed initially. This releases Airbnb from any wrongdoing or responsibility when it comes to cracking down on hosts.
Although Airbnb has agreed to help the city enforce the rules, Rezel says enforcement ultimately lies with the city.
But Rezel believes the city should do more to put pressure on the company.
“If you give Airbnb the responsibility of monitoring hosts, I think we can make progress in resolving this issue,” he said.
“The cities that have succeeded in cracking down on Airbnb have made the platform responsible. ”
Vancouver a “great model”
Chris Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for Airbnb, says Vancouver is a “great model” for cities when it comes to affordable housing.
And when it comes to concerns about the police, Lehane says the company and the city are sharing information that leads to effective enforcement overall.
“The regulatory framework here is working,” he said.
“In the end, we removed 2,500 ads and we are working closely with the City of Vancouver to make sure it works as well as possible.”
When presented with Rezel’s criticisms, Kathryn Holm – the City of Vancouver’s chief permit inspector – maintained that her relationship with Airbnb was working.
“Airbnb provides the city with data on a quarterly basis to support enforcement efforts, and we’re very happy to work with them to help ensure that all Vancouver listings on Airbnb are authorized,” said Holm.
Lehane says the short-term rentals benefit nearly 5,000 Vancouverites who supplement their income.
Rezel theoretically agrees that sharing the house is a great way for people to make extra money with a spare bedroom – but says too many people don’t use it that way.
He also says he always hears stories of people being evicted from their homes so the owner can operate Airbnb, even though it’s against the law.
“People are leaving the city because they cannot find housing,” Rezel said.
Click below to listen to the full interview with Rohana Rezel:
With files from The first edition