(Instagram - @airbnb)

Vancouver wants to license Airbnb hosts

New Vancouver rules would allow most Airbnb-style rentals – with a licence

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.”

RELATED: Airbnb Experience a ‘risk’ to mainstream tourism

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.

RELATED: American firm to monitor Nelson’s Airbnb licences

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.

Vancouver following other cities in regulations

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.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RDN to add fee for cannabis retail applications

Staff expects high volume of applicants after recreational cannabis is legalized

Parksville chamber hands out business awards

Sold-out gala draws 240 to honour 2017 finalists

RDN sees increase in building activity

Three-year rise in development permits exceeds provincial average

Arrowsmith search and rescue members take on crevasse, heli training

New members take part in some weekend training, but Arrowsmith SAR always looking for more

RDN to save $1m for future demolition of District 69 Arena

Money to be put in reserves starting from 2019 to 2023

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

SurvivorPQB supports local charity

Readers vote for their favourites and a chance to win $250 in groceries

Open house set for Parksville supportive housing project

Island Crisis Care Society to host March 20 session at PCCC

Fired City of Nanaimo manager makes human rights complaint

Brad McRae, ex-chief operations officer, looking to be reinstated with municipality

Spring snow melt uncovers dirty needles in B.C. city

Vernon residents are upset with number of needles being found around town with spring melt

RCMP on lookout for man after assault on Qualicum Beach senior

68-year-old pushed to the ground, mouth covered after saying hello to man smoking marijuana

US would host majority of games at 2026 World Cup

A decision on the winning bid will be made June 13 at the FIFA Congress in Mexico

Most people in B.C. too ‘lazy,’ ‘apathetic’ to prepare for disasters: poll

Less than half of those surveyed aren’t insured for earthquakes and wildfires

Chris Hemsworth goes surfing in Tofino

The Australian actor donned a full body wetsuit to catch some waves on Vancouver Island this weekend

Most Read