Critics say City of Victoria crack down on Airbnb could hurt economy

Critics say City of Victoria crack down on Airbnb could hurt economy

Making short-term rentals more expensive could hurt the City of Victoria in the long-run.  Last week, councillors voted in favour of cracking down on owners who rent out their properties through an online reservation system. As Mary Griffin reports, some say the new rules could hurt business.

Bags in tow, two Alaskan tourists arrived in Victoria Tuesday for a three-night night stay.

They’re not heading to a hotel.  Joann Lesh said she just booked their Airbnb apartment in the Janion.

“I just booked it yesterday, last night,” Lesh said.

These hotel owners say they often book Airbnb when travelling, where it’s legal.

“But if people have one or two rooms in a place like this, as far as I’m concerned, should be allowed do it, relatively unregulated,” Lesh said.

Realtor Dave Langlois says this is exactly why he’s against Victoria’s new regulations on short-term rentals.

“They are not looking at the overall benefit that these units bring to the local economy,” Langlois said.

The City of Victoria is cracking down on short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb.   Unit owners will be required in the future to shell out business license fees.  And those properties will be taxed at the much higher commercial rate. Possibly, according to realtor and Airbnb owner Dave Langlois, putting a chill on a hot construction boom.

“Well, it reduces the flexibility in use,” Langlois said. “When someone is buying a condo, for example, the flexibility of the available uses will in large part, determine the value.”

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young said the issue is increasing the number of housing units in the city.

“I’m told, and understand, that many of these units, because they are in the downtown, are being used as an Airbnb,” Young said.  He is not buying the argument that a crack down on short-term rentals will impact prices, and hurt the economy.

“Most people would say prices of housing that aren’t not high enough, is not Victoria’s problem,” Young said. “The problem we’re hearing about is people can’t find places to live. And they can’t find reasonably priced places to live.”

The changes to Victoria’s short-term rentals should come into effect in early 2018.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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