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Calgary getting early access to Airbnb data

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

The City of Calgary has a new tool to monitor Airbnbs throughout the city.

The popular short-term rental site released “City Portal” on Wednesday, hailing it as a “solution” for governments and tourism organizations.

Calgary is one of 15 pilot cities Airbnb is working with. Vancouver is the only other Canadian city in the pilot. Airbnb did not say when it was planning on rolling out the tool in other municipalities.

Read more: City of Calgary closer to implementing new rules for home-sharing services

The portal will include compliance tools, local and global short-term rental data, and direct access to Airbnb representatives.

“[Cities are] interested in the global data, which we’re providing in the portal,” Airbnb spokesperson Nathan Rotman told Global News. “But they’re also interested in how many listings there are in their city.”
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Rotman also said cities can use geographic and demographic data when considering economic development and tourism marketing plans.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he loves data like the type Airbnb will be providing the city with.

“The more we can learn — even in COVID(-19) times — about how people are living and working and travelling, those kinds of data can only help us,” he said.

“We created this tool with cities and our goal is to ensure it works for big cities and small towns, and is adaptive to different needs,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement. “The Airbnb City Portal will make it easier for cities of all sizes to work with us and benefit from our community.”

Read more: The New Reality: As bookings plummet, short-term hosts court long-term tenants during COVID-19

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Short-term rental units in Calgary require a business licence as of Feb. 1. Rotman said the city won’t yet be able to track unlicensed Airbnb listings, calling it a “longer term goal.”

“We’re working very closely with the City of Calgary on the implementation of its regulations,” Rotman said Wednesday. “We’ve informed our hosts through a series of different emails and notification tools about Calgary’s regulations, and how to get registered to be a compliant host.”

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A 2018 report from the city showed 3,364 short-term rentals available in Calgary. As of Wednesday, the city had issued 1,088 business licences for short-term rental units.

Read more: Airbnb removes more than 40 listings across Ontario in ‘crackdown on party houses’

Part of that suite of tools the City Portal will have includes the neighbour tool, used to handle complaints from neighbours about disruptive guests or parties hosted at Airbnb locations.

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“We’ve banned parties on the platform,” Rotman said. “And, in fact, in Ontario this week, we announced that we removed just over 40 listings who had violated our terms of service.”

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Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra thinks the development from Airbnb will help balance Calgary’s short-term rentals as part of the larger housing market mix.

“In some marketplaces in North America and in the world, short-term rentals are pretty toxic on the landscape because they basically provide homeowners a faster route to dollars than having long-term stable renters, and it creates an affordable housing crunch,” said Carra, who also chairs the city committee that recommended council license short-term rentals.

“We’re not in the same situation that a lot of marketplaces are. However, we also don’t want to have a completely unregulated environment, because that’s not fair to the housing market. That’s also not fair to the the hotel market.

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“It’s about creating the appropriate balances.”

Carra characterized the City Portal as “pretty skeletal” on its launch.

“If it grows up and the depth of information and the resources that are offered that create community vibrance for both guest host and citizens and the city is the regulator, I can see it being a very, very excellent thing.”