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OPINION: Vancouver City Councillor floats the idea of an Airbnb snitch line

ArthurStock/Shutterstock Yesterday City of Vancouver staff presented the results of their first year of regulating short-term rentals to Council, who then heard from a number of speakers in regards to some bylaw amendments they had hoped to get appro
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 ArthurStock/ShutterstockArthurStock/Shutterstock

Yesterday City of Vancouver staff presented the results of their first year of regulating short-term rentals to Council, who then heard from a number of speakers in regards to some bylaw amendments they had hoped to get approved. Those amendments would make it more difficult for people to run STRs here.

Their presentation (which you can see HERE) was pretty fascinating as far as slide decks go. It offers insight into the market, what's happening in it, and how they're making sure people follow the rules around renting out their properties on Airbnb and other rental platforms.

The speakers from the public came from both sides of the argument; those who were opposed to the amendments and those who want the City to do even more to regulate the market.

A firefighter who does shift work spoke about how he's able to supplement his income by renting out his place while he's at work. He's rented his place out 145 times, and he was opposed to some of the proposed changes to the bylaws but not all of them.

2018 City Council candidate Rohana Rezel tracks the short-term rental market in Vancouver and often shares his findings and thoughts on Twitter. He spoke to Council, sharing some data which he's pulled from information that's publicly available from Airbnb (for nerds like me: it seems their API is open for data mining).

He didn't have kind things to say about the company and was warned by the person chairing the meeting (Coun Melissa De Genova) to not disparage them specifically in his comments. It seemed to be his opinion that the City could be doing a lot more to stop people from running illegal STRs.

Councillor Colleen Hardwick said that she's "noticed on Twitter that there is a lot of activity... in a sort of shaming exercise", referring to people who expose what appear to be unlawful STR listings. If you follow the hashtag #vanre you'll see some of them.

Hardwick asked the speaker if a "whistleblower line" might be advisable. She later asked the same of another speaker, and this columnist would be surprised if we didn't see someone drafting up a motion in the coming months that directs staff to explore creating a snitch line where you could report people you see acting in bad faith in the short-term rental market.

Council ended up unanimously approving the amendments. Those included increasing the annual licensing fee from $51 to $99, as well as clamping down on property management companies - not just the owners whose units they manage - by putting the onus on them for proving their clients' compliance to the licensing bylaws.

Some fun facts:

- So far the City has collected $113,000 from short-term rental violation tickets, and has suspended 204 licenses.

- The market share for short-term rental listings in Vancouver is not surprisingly hogged by Airbnb: they've got 81% of it.

- 11% of the market share is taken by VRBO.

- Who rents STRs through Booking.com?! Apparently a whole 6% of visitors renting rooms here.

- Councillor Melissa De Genova originally voted against the regulations in 2018, however she voted in favour of these latest amendments to them.

- If you're looking to learn about how you might turn your primary residence into a licensed rental, HERE is the info on the City's website.

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This is Vancouver's Stupidest Politics Column. Read the archive HERE.