City of Vancouver hopes new Airbnb rules will free up 1,000 rental units

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Amid a rental vacancy crunch, the City of Vancouver has unveiled its highly anticipated new framework for regulating short-term rentals (STRs) such as Airbnb.

The city estimates the new rules would legalize about 70 per cent of the listings for entire homes, and almost all “private room” listings on short-term rental sites.

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LISTEN: City of Vancouver unveils new short-term rental regulations
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It also says the move could free up long-term rental supply by about 1,000 units by banning the short-term rental of secondary homes, secondary suites and laneway homes that aren’t someone’s primary residence.

“If we see the vacancy rate change, perhaps council would consider making changes with both short-term rentals and empty homes tax, but right now, there’s not enough rental housing to keep the city functioning,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson of the proposed new rules.

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Under the new rules, anyone looking to rent their home out on a short-term basis would have to apply for a $49 annual licence, which must also be displayed on the rental listing.

STR platforms like Airbnb would also be required to charge a three per cent transaction fee. All cash collected would go to administration and enforcement of the licensing regime.

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STR operators would also be required to pay federal and provincial taxes on income generated from the rentals, as well ensure their property fits with building safety guidelines and ensure neighbourhood fit.

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Sites like Airbnb have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, amid accusations they are contributing to a lack of long-term rental supply in the city.

More than half of Vancouver households are occupied by renters, while the city’s rental vacancy rate sits at a slim 0.8 per cent, according to 2016 data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

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City figures estimate that despite being currently illegal, short-term rentals without a bed and breakfast licence have grown to reflect nearly 30 per cent of tourist accommodations in Vancouver.

It says a recent snapshot of the city’s STR market found nearly 6,000 units listed on various platforms, a 10 per cent growth from the same time last year.

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Airbnb’s own study last year estimated that its platform had a $400 million effect on the city’s economy in direct and secondary spending.

The proposed framework will go before Vancouver City Council Tuesday, July 11, and if approved the proposal will be sent to public hearings.

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The city says it hopes to have new rules in place by April 2018.

– With files from Jeremy Lye

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