Release: Vancouver Short-Term Rental Regs “Close to What’s Needed”

City of Vancouver proposal would license Airbnb units and effectively ban so-called “ghost hotels”

(TORONTO) Today, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson released the first comprehensive proposal by a major Canadian city to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental companies. Amongst other benefits, the regulations would ban ghost hotel operations, returning hundreds of investor-held units to Vancouver’s tight housing supply for long-term residents.

Members of Canada’s “” Coalition called the plan “encouraging.”

“This proposal is promising, and it’s close to what’s needed in every Canadian city or province,” said Lis Pimentel, Chair of the Coalition. “It would legalize spare room rentals in a primary residence, but only in exchange for licensing, transparency and a complaint mechanism to help disrupted neighbourhoods.” The rules would also require short-term rental hosts to display their license number so complaints could be filed and tracked. The licenses would be modelled on existing bed and breakfast licenses, ensuring some consistency with providers in the regulated hospitality market.

The Toronto-based Coalition – which includes affordable housing activists, business owners, academics and hotel union representatives – called for closer review of some potential weaknesses in the plan during upcoming consultations:

  • Unclear definition of “principal residence.” The current definition of “principal residence” includes a number of loopholes that could allow for the continued commercial real estate use of short-term rental platforms. This could continue the negative impact on the rental housing market.
  • Lack of platform accountability. The proposal does not do enough to assign clear liability or enforcement responsibility to companies like Airbnb, even though these rental platforms have enormous power to enforce regulations – or help outflank enforcement – by choosing who is or is not eligible to be listed.
  • Lack of clarity around enforcement and penalty language.
  • The proposal also includes rules that allow for the broad use of secondary suites and other “private rooms” as short-term rental suites, which may create a loophole for ongoing penetration of Vancouver’s tight rental market by short-term rental investors.

Pimentel also praised Gregor Robertson for his candour on the current practices of the short-term rental industry. “Robertson said that the overwhelming majority of short-term rental suites currently available in the Vancouver market aren’t actually legal under the laws already on the books,” she said. “When other cities – like Santa Monica, California – passed laws like this one, the so-called home-share industry responded with a lawsuit. It’s important to keep that in mind when Airbnb and its competitors tell Canadian municipal officials that they’d be okay with new regulations.”

For more information, please contact:

  • Thorben Wieditz at 647-409-8997 or
  • @fairbnbcanada on Twitter
  • on Facebook

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