Vancouver wants to license Airbnb hosts

Vancouver is proposing new regulations for short-term rentals including Airbnb and Expedia that would require hosts to hold a licence and only allow them to rent out their primary residence.

The city has been mulling rules for the popular vacation-rental websites for more than a year and on Wednesday unveiled a plan that will be debated by council next week.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said Vancouver is in a rental housing crunch, with a vacancy rate that has dipped below one per cent. He estimated at least 1,000 rental units could be freed up by the new regulations.

“Short-term rentals like Airbnb have gobbled up a lot of the long-term rental supply,” he said. “Our bottom line continues to be that our housing is for homes first, and for business and investment second.”

People who rent out their units on Airbnb or similar websites would be required to hold a $49 annual licence issued by the city, and the licence details would have to be included on the rental platform advertisement.

The framework would ban short-term rentals of secondary residences but would allow home owners and renters to list and rent their principal homes, including entire units and private rooms.

In addition to the fee from operators, rental platforms such as Airbnb would have to apply a transaction fee of up to three per cent and remit that money to the city.

Robertson said short-term rentals now make up 30 per cent of Vancouver’s accommodations for tourists and Airbnb is effectively the city’s largest hotel.

“Our focus is on ensuring that we do protect our long-term rental housing and also that we ensure that people can make supplemental income from short-term rentals,” he said.

“It has become an important income source for many Vancouverites.”

Currently, rentals of less than 30 days are prohibited without a hotel or bed-and-breakfast licence. Ninety-seven per cent of short-term listings are illegal, according to a staff report issued last fall.

Robertson said the new rules would legalize up to 70 per cent of existing “entire unit” listings and virtually all “private room” short-term rentals.

Following the council debate next week, a public hearing will be held in the fall before the rules are expected to be enacted in April 2018.

Robertson said Airbnb had been co-operative and the company has a good working relationship with city staff.

A spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company said Airbnb welcomes the regulations and continues to recommend fair, easy-to-follow rules that support its host community.

“The vast majority of Airbnb hosts in Vancouver use home sharing to help pay the bills and afford to stay in their homes. Airbnb is transforming travel by allowing people to experience cities like a local and support neighbourhood businesses,” said Alex Dagg in a statement.

Vancouver is home to about 5,100 Airbnb hosts, she said.

The city is the latest Canadian jurisdiction to grapple with the rise of Airbnb and similar websites. Quebec became the first province to impose regulations last year, including requiring users to have a permit and pay a hotel tax, while Toronto is mulling rules similar to those floated in Vancouver.

Karen Sawatzky, with Simon Fraser University’s urban studies department, has examined Airbnb’s impact on rental housing in Vancouver. She said she was pleased the city did not allow secondary suites or laneway houses to be short-term rentals.

She added that she understood that the city set the annual fee relatively low in order to encourage people to get licensed, but she didn’t think that a $49 fee would cover enforcement costs.

Sawatzky said 1,000 units being freed up for long-term rental housing would be “fantastic.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen overnight, but that would certainly be very significant, especially considering how hard it is to get new housing built in this city.”

Just Posted

Red Deer man says more cardiac care needed here

Ryan Gillies spent several extra days in hospital waiting to get a stent in Edmonton

Red Deer gets ready for CFR 45

A $20 to $25-million annual injection to the local economy

Former Red Deer teacher going to trial on child porn charges

Charges were laid in January 2017 after a woman came forward

Red Deer agency reports more than 1,000 lives saved with naloxone

Turning Point distributes 5,855 naloxone kits

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month