Long list of speakers on Airbnb and short-term rentals spills into a second night of public debate

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      A public hearing the City of Vancouver held last night (October 24) on short-term rental services like Airbnb went long and has been scheduled to continue on a second evening.

      Part two is scheduled for Thursday (October 26), at Vancouver City Hall beginning at 6 p.m.

      According to the city clerk’s office, 101 citizens and stakeholders registered to speak on new bylaws the city is drafting to regulate short-term rentals. They made it through the first 48 of them last night and now will pick up with speaker number 49 tomorrow.

      The draft bylaws would legalize much of the business that Vancouver residents have been doing illegally on Airbnb for the last several years. According to a city estimate, more than 6,000 units were available online as of last April. The new regulations would legalize most of those listings but require people renting a spare room or an apartment for less than 30 days to obtain a business licence.

      The fee is proposed as $49 a year.

      The regulations would only allow people to rent out their primary residence, a part of their primary residence, or a laneway house that’s used as a primary residence.

      They would not, for example, allow a Vancouver resident to rent out a condo on Airbnb that they own but do not live inside.

      They also would not allow a Vancouver homeowner to rent out a secondary suite such as a basement unit for less than 30 days. That was one of the proposed-bylaws’ specific provisions that received attention at the October 24 hearing.

      Some homeowners said they would like greater flexibility on what they can do with secondary suites. The city has maintained that secondary suites should not be eligible for short-term rentals in order to keep them as part of Vancouver’s long-term rental-housing supply.

      Earlier this week, Airbnb's Canadian public policy head, Alex Dagg, said the San Francisco-based company is largely satisfied by the bylaws that the city has proposed.

      "We think that the City of Vancouver has done a thoughtful job looking at a complicated issue, [but] we have some concerns about it and we'll be communicating those," Dagg told CBC News.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson has repeatedly emphasized that the goal is to stamp out problematic short-term hosts using Airbnb in ways that subtract from the city’s rental stock.

      “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 news conference in September 2016, when the city began to reveal details of its plans to regulate short-term listings.

      “We are primarily concerned about the impact of short-term rentals on the long-term rental supply, and are recognizing that there is space for people to have short-term rentals in their principle homes to help supplement income in this expensive city,” Robertson continued.

      The city estimates that its proposed rules for short-term rentals would legalize about 70 percent of Vancouver listings on Airbnb while singling out some 1,000 problematic listings for penalties. Other estimates put the number closer to 2,500 units.

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