City of Vancouver introduces regulations for short-term rentals

Gregor Robertson
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

VANCOUVER City staff are proposing a new regulatory framework for short-term rentals (STRs) – including Airbnb, Expedia and others – that will protect long-term rental housing supply while enabling supplemental income for local residents. If adopted, the regulations would legalize up to 70% of existing ‘entire unit’ and virtually all ‘private room’ STR listings in Vancouver, while potentially boosting long-term rental supply by more than 1,000 homes.

The framework, put forward in a staff report to Council, proposes that homeowners and renters (with owner permission) are able to list and rent their principal residences with an annual business license for a small ($49) fee, and that short-term rental platforms apply a transaction fee up to three per cent which would be remitted to the City to help fund the administration and enforcement of licensing STRs.

“Housing is first and foremost for homes, not to be operated as a business and the Vancouver’s approach to short-term rentals strikes a balance that will ensure the best use of all our housing,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Wednesday. “By regulating short-term rentals, the City is protecting long-term rental stock – which, with a 0.8% vacancy rate, every home counts – while recognizing that many who live and work in Vancouver rely on rental income from their principal residence to make ends meet.”

Key elements of the proposed regulations include:

* STR operators are required to obtain a business license and pay an annual license fee ($49/year plus one-time $54 activation fee).

* STR operators are required to comply with building safely, neighbourhood fit, and STR advertising and booking requirements.

* STRs of secondary residences are not allowed.

* STRs of legal secondary suites or laneway homes which are not principal residences, or illegal secondary suits, are not allowed. Operators must list their business licenses number on the STR site, and STR sites will only list STRs with valid business licenses.

Staff are additionally recommending that STR operators and platforms be required to pay all applicable federal and provincial taxes, and that the provincial and federal governments take steps to ensure STR operators pay sales and income tax per existing laws, including requesting access to City licensing information as required.

If approved at Council next week, the framework will be referred to public hearing this fall and be ready for enactment by April 2018.

Regulating STRs is the latest in the series of steps Council has taken to tackle Vancouver’s affordability crisis, including:

* Investing $80M in the 2017 Capital Plan for affordable housing – the most ever;

* Approving a record number of new rental homes;

* Bringing in Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax;

* Pursuing modular housing on city-owned sites;

* Offering 20 sites of City-owned land worth $250 Million to senior governments to use for affordable housing;

* Increasing family home requirements in new housing projects to 35%; and

* Providing four City-owned sites to enable Vancouver’s first Community Land Trust.