NPA councillor Melissa De Genova brings forward motions on short-term housing, money laundering, and Kettle Society

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      With an election just four months away, an NPA councillor has taken the unusual step of advancing three motions on notice in advance of Tuesday's (July 24) council meeting.

      Melissa De Genova's first motion concerns short-term rental accommodation, which the City of Vancouver defines as lasting for less than 30 days at a time.

      In the preamble, she notes that council "has not been presented with data showing the amount of long term rental housing supply that has been added to the market" because of new rules passed last year.

      She also points out that the city has indicated that the main justification for these new rules is to boost the supply of rental accommodation for long-term tenants.

      Moreover, her preamble states that other cities, including Seattle, have applied a nightly tax on short-term rentals to fund affordable housing. This is being done while still allowing for "regulated growth in the short-term rental and vacation rental markets".

      De Genova is seeking council's approval to direct staff to report back "with the metrics as to how a tax and allowing short term rentals can contribute to funding city-led initiatives for affordable housing".

      Last year, the four NPA councillors voted against the Vision Vancouver- and Green-supported new regulations to legalize and regulate short-term rentals.

      Under the city's rules, residents may only rent part of their primary residence in this way.

      Those who rent part or all of their primary residences must pay an annual $49 fee for a business licence, plus a one-time administration fee of $54.

      A city staff report forecast that this would generate $110,000 to $140,000 in the first year. That's considerably less than the anticipated $618,000 cost to administer the program.

      The regulations took effect on April 1, which means they've been in place for less than four months.

      De Genova's second motion calls on council to affirm its support for the Kettle Society.

      It also seeks to direct staff to work with it to "move forward" on plans to develop an expanded drop-in centre and 30 units of supportive housing for those struggling with mental-health issues and homelessness.

      It comes forward just over a month after the Kettle Society and Boffo Projects cancelled a project to do just that near the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street.

      Boffo Properties said the city was demanding $6 million to $16 million in a cash amenity contribution, making the project "no longer economically feasible".

      Boffo Properties and the Kettle Society recently pulled the plug on a plan to include 30 units of social housing and a drop-in centre at a project near the corner of Venables Street and Commercial Drive.

      Money laundering analysis sought

      De Genova's third motion seeks council's approval to ask Mayor Gregor Robertson to write a letter to Attorney General David Eby to affirm the city's willingness to work with the province and law-enforcement agencies to prevent money laundering linked to unlicensed businesses in Vancouver.

      It also calls on council to direct staff "to identify a system where the City of Vancouver can share pertinent information with the appropriate authorities to prevent and deter money laundering".

      De Genova's motion mentions the recent provincial report by former senior Mountie Peter German, which examined money laundering in casinos.

      "Mr. German also states in his report the most lucrative crimes in Vancouver are related to illegal drug sales," her preamble states. "The drugs of choice cover the spectrum, from natural products such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin, to chemical creations such as opioids and hallucinogens."

      De Genova points out that the city doesn't require medical marijuana-related businesses operating without a licence to reveal the source of funds that pay for licensing or fees.

      "It is possible that this money collected by the City of Vancouver could be from the sales of illegal drugs," she alleges in the preamble.

      She adds that there's also no system in place to determine if empty-homes-tax revenue is "directly or indirectly linked to money laundering". 

      As a result, she's seeking council's approval for staff "to review the possibility of a system that would help to identify funds received by the City of Vancouver that are likely to be a result of money laundering or from the proceeds of crime".

      She would like this report to be completed by September, along with recommendations about how this data could be shared with the province and various police agencies.