September 5, 2018 9:56 pm

City of Vancouver says short-term rental listings cut by nearly half since April

WATCH: New short-term rentals licensing rules now in effect in Vancouver

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The City of Vancouver is touting new numbers showing that short-term rental listings have been cut nearly in half since it implemented its new regulations in April.

Hosts had been given a grace period up to Aug. 31 to obtain a short-term rental licence, which must be displayed on any listing.

Vancouver’s chief licence inspector Kathryn Holm said the city is already seeing tangible results.

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“Our efforts have also resulted in the number of active short-term rentals in Vancouver dropping dramatically from approximately 6,600 this past April… to 3,700,” she said.

The city said it has issued 2,630 short-term business licences, covering 70 per cent of existing listings.

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It said Airbnb has also deactivated 2,482 listings that didn’t have a licence, and a further 660 people pulled listings or converted them to long-term rentals based on action from the city.

Under the city’s bylaw, short-term rental hosts can only rent out their principal residence or single rooms, and must display a valid permit number on their listing.

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Holm said the city had conducted limited enforcement during the last three months, focusing on unsafe properties or those that are clearly a commercial operation.

But she said bylaw officers will now begin cracking down on anyone violating the bylaws — with penalties ranging up to $1,000 per infraction.

“With all bylaw enforcement, we look at it with a degree of reasonableness and discretion,” she said.

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“So where an operator appears to have made an honest data entry mistake in entering their licence… we’ll use our discretion about how to pursue enforcement.

“Where there is blatant misuse or misrepresentation or incorrect numbers entered as a licence number, we have the ability to escalate our enforcement to be up to $1,000 per-day per-platform.”

Paul Kershaw, founder of millennial-focused research group Generation Squeeze and a member of the Fairbnb.ca coalition, said the city should be commended for its approach to the short-term rental issue.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s new short-term rental rules go into effect this weekend, but will owners comply?

Fairbnb bills itself as a coalition of property owners, renters and groups from the hotel and bed-and-breakfast industries that advocates for regulation of short-term rentals.

Kershaw said Vancouver appears to have hit a “sweet spot” with its regulation that allows genuine residents to cash in on the sharing economy, while cutting out speculators.

“[It] means, on one hand, we’re dialing up the right kind of supply, saying, ‘Hey, supply we’ve already built should be used for people who work or study here,” he said.

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“And simultaneously, we need to dial down harmful sources of demand, and it is harmful to our housing market when people are primarily buying a unit to treat it as a hotel, rather than rent it out to someone who works or studies here.”

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Kershaw added that he was hopeful that the number of units pulled from short-term rental could have a noticeable effect on rents in the city.

“Three-thousand units — if even a portion of those get offered as long-term rental — goes a long way to restoring a vacancy rate around three to five per cent, which would be healthy, as opposed to around one per cent or less right now in this city, which is really unhealthy,” he said.

In the short term, the city said it has identified a further 294 addresses that it has begun to investigate, and said it expects its team to get better at enforcement as it proceeds.

It said that anyone who wishes to report a suspected illegal short-term rental can call 311 or use the VanConnect app.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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