Make Airbnb pay for illegal Vancouver rentals, campaign urges city
|globalnews.ca 12 Sep 2017 at 19:51|
Make them pay â the websites advertising short-term rentals, that is.
Thatâs the solution that a campaign proposes in order to make the City of Vancouverâs regulations around rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO function properly â and actually help the city make a difference in terms of freeing up rental units.
Coverage of Airbnb on Globalnews.ca:
As the city works towardsÂ , a campaign calling itself Fairbnb.ca has issued a report calling on Vancouver to modify its regulations so that the sites themselves are held accountable for the illegal rentals that show up among their listings.
âAirbnb themselves have to be legally constricted to not list suites illegally,â Quentin Wright, executive director of the Mole Hill Community Housing Society and a participant in the campaign, said Tuesday.
The report, titled â Accountable at the Source ,â suggests that Vancouver take a cue from other cities and hold rental platforms like Airbnb directly accountable for such listings through fines or other measures.
Fairbnb, which is a coalition of property owners, renters, and groups from the hotel and bed-and-breakfast industries, proposes that Vancouver set up a system that would require hosts to obtain permits in order to use their properties as short-term rentals.
Sites like Airbnb, meanwhile, would be required to list only permitted rentals, and be fined each day that an illegal listing is advertised there.
A similar system is in place in San Francisco, where Airbnb was founded, Fairbnb recounted in its report.
The cityâs board of governors introduced rules that fined the company up to $1,000 per day for unregistered listings that appeared on the site.
Airbnb sued San Francisco, but a judge later rejected the companyâs claim, according to Fairbnb. The listings platform subsequently worked with San Francisco to help enforce the rules.
Toronto has also proposed a form of platform accountability that requires short-term rental sites to listÂ lawful listings with a municipal permit number, Fairbnb added.
The Inside Airbnb website showing Vancouver is shown in this screengrab taken Friday, April 1, 2016.
Vancouverâs short-term rental regulations would make anyone who wants to rent out their home obtain a $49 annual licence that would also be displayed on the listing.
Platforms like Airbnb or VRBO would also have to charge a three-per-cent transaction fee. This money would help administer and enforce the cityâs licensing regime.
But the regulations donât contain anything that hold the platforms themselves accountable.
A staff report from July said thereâs an âongoing legal debateâ about whether platforms like Airbnb are carrying out business in the city, or whether theyâre just facilitating it.
The staff report went on to say that itâs not clear whether licences are required for platforms that are based outside Vancouver; licences are required for platforms that have staff or offices in the city.
Statue of Captain George Vancouver outside Vancouver City Hall.
For its part, Airbnb was largely dismissive of Fairbnb, saying itâs a front group funded by âbig hotels.â
The rental platform said it wants to regulated, and that it has âalways advocated for fair sensible home-sharing regulations and look forward to continuing our collaborative relationship with the City of Vancouver.â
Meanwhile, the city is facing additional criticism for hiring an ad agency to promote its empty homes tax , another measure designed to free up the cityâs rental stock.
The agency is being used to spread the cityâs message about the empty homes tax on paid media channels, with ads targeting people who donât speak English and arenât computer-savvy.
Critics wonder why this is happening when the City of Vancouver had many as 33 people working on its corporate communication team, as of March.
The city said it has gone to a third party because it âwants to ensure that every effort is made to educate the impacted public about this new tax process.â