Airbnb Regulations

A recent meetup brought together Vancouver's Airbnb community, hosted by Aaron Zifkin (Regional Director - Americas Operations) and Alex Dagg (Public Policy Manager, Canada). The event was geared toward shedding some light on where the regulations stand when it comes to listing your place on the company's website, which currently has more than 2 million listings in nearly 200 countries.

As an Airbnb host myself, I had a vested interest in how the forthcoming regulations would affect my income stream, as rentals less than 30 days are technically prohibited without a bed and breakfast license. San Fransisco, where Airbnb was established, was one of the first cities in the world to legalize short-term rentals by imposing a nominal licensing fee ($50 every two years, as well as a 14% hotel tax), and requiring hosts to sign up on a city registry, and carry liability insurance. Some victories were however short-lived, as late in 2016, San Fransisco city's Board of Supervisors restricted the allowable number of days hosts could rent out their homes to 60 per calendar year, down from the previous 90.

In Metro Vancouver, city councils such as in Richmond have already voted unanimously in favour of an outright ban instead of imposing regulations. Enforcement mechanisms are yet to be determined, likely because they'd be looking for a needle in a haystack, much like gathering intel on vacant homes. Many buildings around Vancouver already display anti-Airbnb posters, threatening to fine any perpetrators caught allowing well intentioned travelers into their homes.

With the Provincial General Elections taking place early this year, concerned Airbnb hosts are bound to get an update from the city hired consulting firm regarding how vacation rentals impact the supply of affordable rental housing, and what restrictions are to be put in place. This begs the question - will stricter laws result in an increase in rental inventory? I believe the outcome would be trivial, as short-term rentals have greater appeal to landlords who opt not to assume the responsibilities that come with long-term leases, and comprise only 1,000 units of rental housing stock in Vancouver. With the mass adoption of Airbnb's widely successful platform, the growing ubiquity of micro b&b entrepreneurs will have the inevitable consequence of reduced profit margins, as supply outpaces demand. The days of landlords cashing in on Airbnb may be numbered.

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