Frances Bula header image 2

City pushes to collect new info on Airbnb with view to new rules

April 1st, 2016 · 36 Comments

So interesting to see how the ground is shifting on this issue of Airbnb.

When I first wrote about the phenomenon in Vancouver four years ago (inspired by rumblings of dissatisfaction I’d been hearing in other cities), there didn’t seem to be a lot of concern.

The bed-and-breakfast people weren’t so happy, but the hotel association was staying out of the fight and it didn’t seem to be on a lot of people’s radar. My main problem with the story was finding an Airbnber to talk to me, I presume since many of them are breaking several kinds of bylaws or strata rules or CRA reporting requirements.

Fast forward, and we get to this week, where council is now pushing hard to get maximum information in order to figure out what to do. The number of listings in Vancouver has increased to almost 5,000.

It’s not just this council that’s worried. Others are too, along with landlords (I talked to an apartment manager in my story whose sign in front of the building specifies “No Airbnb) and strata councils, which have been rapidly moving to create new bylaws that prohibit Airbnb rentals.

At the same time, it’s not a black and white issue. I, like many in this city, have used Airbnb elsewhere because of the chance it gives to feel like you’re living in a real apartment in a regular neighbourhood. I try hard to stay at places that don’t appear to be set up as permanent hotels. I’m not always successful, but I do try. My best experience was a gorgeous place in Lyon I rented from a flight attendant who was in Iceland during our four days there.

I’ve also been contacted, since I wrote the story, about people who say they’re concerned that there will be a crackdown on the kind of Airbnb rentals they do that they believe help provide needed spaces for visitors, but don’t take away long-term housing — people who rent out a spare room or who rent out their whole places if they are away for a few weeks or months on vacation or business.

I understand there’s been divided opinion at the city’s rental advisory committee, because some representatives there say it helps renters if they can have someone stay a few nights a month to help them make the rent.

And a UBC student has also written about the issue of people who are renting out a spare room.

On the other hand, there are indeed whole units being lost to the “hotel” market. I wrote about last year about a couple who said they decided to Airbnb their basement because the tenant was moving out. I later heard from the tenant that she’d been told they were planning to do that, so she decided to leave without a fight.

That’s a problem when, as anyone looking for rentals these days knows, it’s a near-zero vacancy rate and there are 100 applications for any available unit that isn’t a slum.


Categories: Uncategorized