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Housing-starved communities call short-term rental changes a good start

AirBnB opposes legislation, calls for different approach, Opposition worried about collateral damage

Reaction to new legislation limiting short-term rentals in B.C. is drawing a range of reactions.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon Monday (Oct. 16) tabled legislation limiting short-term rentals in some but not all communities of B.C. as part of a larger policy package that also includes a registry for platforms like Airbnb and hosts, and tougher penalties for violators of existing municipal bylaws.

Karin Kirkpatrick, BC United shadow minister for housing, questioned the pace of government in bringing forward this legislation and its impact. Citing New York City’s rules (whole-apartment rentals of less than 30 days are illegal), Kirkpatrick predicts that the legislation will push some short-term rental providers into the black market. Kirkpatrick said her party is also concerned about the impact of the legislation on tourism in communities both large and small.

“One of the problems that have helped Airbnb grow is the lack of motel and hotel space,” Kirkpatrick said. The number of new hotel spaces in major communities like Vancouver has also stagnated, she added. “We’re unable to host large events, large conventions, because we just simply don’t have enough space for them. So there are some contributing factors there.”

She added that the government should look at the issue of short-term rentals in conjunction with actually creating more hotel space and that the legislation could impact B.C.’s relationship with the tourism industry.

“So there are some concerns about our own relationship here as a province with that sector.”

Kirkpatrick, however, made it clear that the state of housing and the supply of hotel rooms are separate issues.

“I wasn’t insinuating that we should not be reducing the number of Airbnbs that we have,” she said. “I was just saying as a secondary consideration to this issue that there is an issue with the hospitality sector. I, in no way, think that we should be limiting the ability for people to rent in B.C. That’s going to be the priority.”

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto welcomed the new measures, especially the registry. It will take the detective work out of tracking short-term rentals and allow municipalities like hers to focus their limited bylaw enforcement resources elsewhere, she said. It also strikes the balance between creating accommodation for tourists and housing.

Alto’s counterparts in Vancouver and Kelowna have also endorsed the legislation.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said his city needs more support when it comes to enforcement.

“(We) are pleased to see the (province) introduce these changes, with more significant consequences for those who seek to abuse the system,” Sim said. “We are in a housing crisis and this will be a big step to ensure folks in Vancouver and across B.C. have more access to attainable housing.”

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas called the legislation an “important step” to help ensure a diverse housing supply that community.

“The need is great,” he said. “(We) hear regularly from our tourism industry of the challenge their staff have in finding housing and this will go a long way to change that situation, and many similar housing challenges in our community,” he said.

BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen said the new legislation will likely increase the price of hotels, but British Columbia needs more housing.

RELATED: Province to limit short-term rentals in some B.C. communities, but not all

Olsen added that he expects what he called “lively discussions” in communities within his riding that depend on tourism, but the pendulum has swung too far toward the short-term vacation rental market with tremendous impact on businesses struggling to attract workers.

Overall, he gives the proposal the thumbs-up, while reserving further judgment.

“Generally, this looks like a response to a problem or part of a problem that has been existing in this province now for the last 15 years,” he said. “And generally, it looks like these are good changes.”

Airbnb, meanwhile, has expressed its opposition.

“The B.C. government’s proposed legislation won’t alleviate the province’s housing concerns, instead it will take money out of the pockets of British Columbians, make travel more unaffordable for millions of residents who travel within B.C., and reduce tourism spending in communities where hosts are often the only providers of local accommodations,” Alex Howell, Policy Manager with Canada Airbnb, said in an emailed statement.

Pointing to a Conference Board of Canada report, Howell said short-term rental rules are not an effective solution to local housing concerns.

“We hope the B.C. government will pursue more sensible regulation and listen to the many residents – hosts, travellers and businesses – that will be impacted by the proposed rules,” he said.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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