Vancouver bans short-term Airbnb rentals in laneway homes, basement suites

Vancouver has banned short-term rentals in basement suites and laneway homes, after a heated debate that saw some city councillors warn that homeowners would not be able to pay their mortgages without income from Airbnb.

City council approved new regulations for vacation stays through websites such as Airbnb and Expedia on Tuesday in a 7-4 vote. The rules prohibit hosts from listing units that are not their principal residence, including any secondary suites on the property.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, along with councillors from his Vision Vancouver party, defended the rules as necessary in a time of crisis. The vacancy rate is just above zero and the city must do everything it can to free up housing for long-term renters, said Robertson.

“I’m stunned to hear that some councillors don’t believe there’s a problem here. We have 6,000 illegal short-term rentals in the city,” he said just before the vote.

“Hundreds of cities around the world are regulating short-term rentals. I think there’s widespread acknowledgment that short-term rentals do affect the rental housing supply, particularly in cities like Vancouver where we do have a shortage in rental housing. … I can’t imagine doing nothing.”

Some Airbnb hosts criticized Vancouver’s rules at a public hearing last month, saying the changes will deprive them of occasional, much-needed income. Councillors from the opposing Non-Partisan Association echoed their concerns on Tuesday, with Coun. George Affleck warning that the new regulations would make Vancouver less affordable for people.

Vancouver hosts will now be required to obtain a business licence that costs $49 annually, plus a one-time application fee of $54, and display their licence number in their online listing. Those who fail to comply with the regulations will face a $1,000 ticket per violation.

Vancouver has also imposed a three-per-cent transaction fee on bookings that would be remitted voluntarily by the short-term rental platforms to the city.

The city is the latest jurisdiction to crack down on the vacation websites. Seattle council voting Monday to impose a levy of $14 per night for short-term rentals of entire homes and $8 per night for rooms, with the taxes to kick in by 2019.

Airbnb was not immediately available to comment Tuesday, but it has maintained that it’s open to regulation provided new rules don’t penalize casual users and recognize not every host runs a full-fledged business.

The new regulations will come into effect on April 1, 2018.

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