City of Burnaby moves closer to regulating short-term rentals—after Airbnb CEO says travel as we knew it is over

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      "Travel as we knew it is over."

      That was one of several newsworthy statements by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in a June 22 interview on CNBC's Squawk Alley.

      He also talked about the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown in March on his short-term rental company.

      "Not surprisingly, we spent 12 years building Airbnb's business and lost almost all of it in a matter of four to six weeks," Chesky said.

      He remains optimistic because he believes that people are still willing to book Airbnb rentals in smaller communities where they'll feel safe.

      While that hasn't been enough to account for lost business, Chesky said that at the end of May and in early June, Airbnb had as many bookings in the United States as during the same period in the previous year—without any marketing.

      "People are saying they want to get out of the house," Chesky told CNBC. "But they want to be safe. They don't want to get on airplanes. They don't want to travel for business. They don't want to go to cities. They don't want to cross borders.

      "But what they are willing to do is get in a car, drive a couple of hundred miles to a small community where they are willing to stay in a house."

      Burnaby plans licensing program

      The following day, on June 23, the City of Burnaby's planning and development committee approved senior staff's recommendation regarding a regulatory and enforcement framework for short-term rentals.

      Staff have proposed a licensing program only allowing homeowners, and not tenants, to offer short-term rentals in their principal residence for a maximum of 90 nights per year.

      Staff have recommended that these licence holders only be allowed to rent their entire principal residence for 28 days per year.

      "Short term rentals within secondary suites and homes with secondary suites, as well as flex suites and homes with flex suites would not be permitted," the staff report to the committee states. "Renting non-principal residences (i.e. dwelling units not occupied by a homeowner or tenant on a permanent basis) would not be permitted."

      Fees would be based on a cost-recovery basis.

      Committee members voted to recommend that Burnaby council support the strategy outlined in the report as the basis for "initial public engagement".

      In addition, the committee wants council to "authorize staff to engage a third party data monitoring firm to provide detailed and ongoing data on short term rental activity in Burnaby".

      That would help staff conduct enforcement.

      Burnaby is the only one of Metro Vancouver's five largest cities not to have a licensing system for short-term rentals or bed-and-breakfast operations.

      According to the staff report to the committee, "there has been a growth in the use of private residences, both occupied and vacant, for tourist and visitor accommodations".

      Host Compliance Inc. informed staff that in January, there were 1,583 listings in Burnaby in 1,438 dwellings. Of those, 55 percent were for the entire residence and 79 percent of listings were in single-family homes. The average nightly rate in Burnaby was $80.

      "Short term rentals can affect the rental housing supply when vacant dwelling units that could otherwise be rented to long term tenants are offered as nightly accommodation for tourists and visitors," the report states. "Secondary rental housing units, such as secondary suites and strata apartment units, represent nearly 65% of Burnaby's total estimated rental housing stock."

      It also notes that income generated from short-term rentals can defray the high cost of housing for homeowners and tenants.

      However, the report adds that these rentals also create an unlevel playing field for hotels, which face greater regulatory scrutiny.

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