Airbnb, housing issues get spotlight at UBCM

Cities seek government action to 'level playing field' with existing hotels, avoid loss of long-term rentals to vacation market

Map from tracking service Inside Airbnb shows locations of more than 4

Municipal leaders will next month debate what to do about online accommodation booking services like Airbnb, which are blamed for shifting part of the long-term rental supply to more lucrative vacation rentals while dodging the taxes that existing hotel and B&B operators pay.

Four resolutions will be before the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria in September to seek provincial government regulation of short-term rentals to “level the playing field” with conventional operators.

People renting out rooms, suites or entire homes through Airbnb avoid paying a variety of taxes – from higher commercial property tax rates to sales and room taxes – that represent up 25 to 30 per cent of a regular room’s costs, according to one resolution from the Sun Peaks mountain resort municipality.

It demands “taxation fairness” and an equitable competitive environment between all providers and notes local tourism promotion may also be harmed because those marketing campaigns are often funded by a two to three per cent room tax.

The City of Vancouver’s resolution warns the “explosive growth” of online accommodation platforms has created an urgent need “to protect affordable housing stock for long-term residents.”

Vancouver urges the province to collect all applicable sales taxes at point of purchase on daily private room rentals. It notes that provincial regulations already require operators with four or more units to collect and remit PST and hotel room taxes but the government hasn’t yet enforced that against online booking operators.

There are nearly 5,000 Airbnb listings within the City of Vancouver – which city councillors say often consist of homes that have been taken out of the long-term rental supply.

The rental vacancy rate is under one per cent in both Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

The tracking site Inside Airbnb shows nearly 1,700 listings are in Victoria and the Capital Regional District.

But smaller B.C. municipalities as farflung as Tofino and Nelson have also been grappling with how to respond, sometimes facing resistance from locals who want to keep earning extra money from bookings through Airbnb or VRBO.

The provincial government has been consulting with municipalities and other stakeholders about potential regulation of so-called sharing economy services such as Airbnb, and particularly the ride-hailing app Uber.

Community Minister Peter Fassbender has yet to report his findings or issue recommendations, and an official in his ministry said the consultations are ongoing.

Another housing issue before the UBCM is the use of “renovictions” by landlords to evict tenants on the pretense of major renovations in order to charge much higher rent to a new tenant.

A New Westminster resolution would ask the province to give renters the right of first refusal to return to their old unit at a rent no more than what could have been charged had they stayed.

Langley City wants the province to create two separate residential property tax classes for single family homes and multifamily strata units.

The municipality argues single family houses have risen much faster in assessed value than condos and house owners as a result have ended up shouldering a much greater share of local property taxes. Creating a new multifamily class would let cities charge different and presumably higher rates to condo dwellers to narrow that difference.

Just Posted

Chilliwack car show cancelled due to weather forecast

Popular Village Classic car show will not be rescheduled, say organizers

Agassiz author pens a kingly book

Long-time writer and producer Alexander Hamilton-Brown just finished his first novel

UPDATED: Two weeks too long for hospital ward closure, says Chilliwack mayor

Medical director of Chilliwack hospital says maternity ward will be back in business soon

Chilliwack maternity ward closure narrowed to two weeks

Fraser Health says they’ve found a solution to an expected 13-week shortage of obstetricians

Chilliwack: Time to help the helpers

Family who fostered 56 kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read