Airbnb deletes 130 "commercial" listings in first bulk removal for Vancouver

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      For the first time, Airbnb has removed a large number of listings from the digital service’s directory for the city Vancouver.

      In a November 10 letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson, Airbnb Canada’s public-policy head states that  130 listings have been removed for appearing to operate as businesses.

      “Further to recent discussions I had with your staff, I am informing you that Airbnb has proactively removed more than 130 listings from our platform in Vancouver that we believe belong to commercial operators and do not meet the standards and priorities of our community, nor the guest experience we seek to provide,” reads the letter by Airbnb Canada’s Alex Dagg.

      Airbnb, a digital service that connects landlords with short-term tenants, has taken similar action in other cities. In December 2015, it deleted 1,500 listings for New York City, and the following month removed about 100 listings for San Francisco.

      In April 2016, the Straight reported that from a technical standpoint, it is easy for Airbnb to remove listings deemed problematic.

      All Airbnb has to do is apply search-result filters that catch listings that appear to operate as businesses and thus subtract from a city’s legitimate rental stock. For example, Airbnb could look for listings for Vancouver that rent an entire dwelling (as opposed to a spare room or sofa), and that are rented out for more than six months of the year. Then it could hit the delete button on those listings or suspend the users who posted them.

      There are likely more than 130 Airbnb listings for Vancouver that are operating in ways that subtract from the city’s long-term rental stock.

      According to a website called Inside Airbnb, in December 2015, there were more than 1,200 listings that could be subtracting units from Vancouver's limited rental stock.
      Inside Airbnb

      As previously reported by the Straight, according to a data-analysis website called Inside Airbnb, in December 2015 there were 1,248 Vancouver listings for entire homes that were “recent and frequently booked”.

      The Airbnb letter does not state the exact criteria used to decide which 130 listings for Vancouver would be removed from the service.

      On October 5, Vancouver city council voted in favour of a proposed legal framework for short-term rentals like those listed on Airbnb. Those rules outline how Vancouver residents can continue to list dwellings on Airbnb and which types of listings should be banned.

      “Our approach is to strike a balance between regulating the short-term rentals and ensuring that some people can continue to do that,” Robertson said at a September 28 news conference convened to announce the city’s plan. “Housing is first and foremost about homes, not about operating a business.”

      According to the city, the proposed regulations could return more than 1,000 units to Vancouver’s long-term housing stock.

      The vacancy rate for Vancouver's rental market is estimated to stand at just 0.6 percent.

      Dagg’s letter states Airbnb Canada will continue to work with the City.

      “We’re sensitive to the fact that Vancouver is facing a variety of unique challenges with respect to the housing market,” it reads. “We want to keep collaborating with you on creating the right policy approach for home sharing in Vancouver, including tackling unwelcome commercial operators.”

      Dagg notes there are other services similar to Airbnb to which the deleted operators could simply relocate their listings. She states Airbnb therefore supports "smart, sensible regulations that address the entire industry".

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