Short-term rental enforcement should fall to platforms like Airbnb: housing advocate

Short-term rental enforcement should fall to platforms like Airbnb: housing advocate
Nicholas Pescod

As the B.C. government develops plans to regulate short-term rentals, an advocate is calling for the onus of enforcement to be placed on the platforms rather than individual municipalities.

Last week, the province unveiled its $12-billion 10-year housing plan, which included a pledge to regulate short-term rentals, but details on exactly what those rules would look like were sparse.

Leo Spalteholz, a volunteer with Homes For Living YYJ, says the burden of enforcement should be placed on the short-term rental platforms, rather than municipalities, which is a measure he would like to see the province implement.

“If the province can actually force the platforms to cooperate, most of those [enforcement] resource requirements should disappear,” Spalteholz said in an interview with CHEK News.

“It should just be a matter of the City of Victoria or any municipality maintaining a list of licensed hosts, and they have a definition of what they allow and what they don’t allow, in terms of short-term rentals, that list gets submitted to Airbnb, VRBO, whatever platform is out there, and that platform must cooperate, then they will simply refuse to host anything that’s not on that list.”

The other measure that Spalteholz said he would like the province to implement was part of David Eby’s Sept. 28 housing plan announced when he was running to be premier, however, these were not part of the April 3 housing plan announcement.

The Sept. 28 plan said short-term rental companies will be required to give municipalities information about unlicensed short-term rental units to allow for easier enforcement.

Spalteholz says he has been in touch with municipalities who say such a change would bring in stricter measures, but they don’t have enough enforcement resources.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says this is also something he has heard from several municipalities.

“We want to ensure that those that are actually operating short-term rentals are following rules, that they have the proper permits in place to be able to do that,” Kahlon said. “We’ve been hearing from local governments that is a big challenge for many of them, that they have rules in place, but many of them don’t follow the rules and we want to make sure that both sides are covered.”

Kahlon says the province is currently looking into what the regulations will be and is discussing with Quebec its recent short-term rental legislation and how it’s going.

“We’ve actually been reaching out to Quebec, because they’ve got legislation in place,” Kahlon said. “I had a meeting with the minister there to learn from them about their experience, what we can learn from them for both putting rules in place for short-term rentals, but also how we can ensure that we can get housing back in the market.”

Spalteholz says Quebec is requiring short-term rentals in the province to have a business license, but has not required short-term rental platforms to verify they are accurate.

“So you get these issues that are exactly the same as in Vancouver, where every listing in Vancouver should have a city license number in the listing itself, and they do,” Spalteholz said. “But some of them are invalid, some of them are expired, some of them are duplicates, some of them are entirely made up. Then it still requires the city itself to chase those unlicensed units.”

The goal of regulating short-term rentals is to bring some of those units back into the housing market, according to Kahlon.

Spalteholz says while it would have some effect, it won’t solve the housing crisis.

“Probably the best we can hope for here is maybe 1,000 units to come back to the market,” Spalteholz said. “That’s great, we desperately need those 1,000 units, but if we look at what are we actually short tens of thousands of units.”

InsideAirbnb, a platform that monitors the number of Airbnb units in various housing markets, shows there are currently 4,326 Airbnb listings across the Capital Regional District, 3,751 of which are whole home rentals.

Kahlon says the goal is to introduce legislation in the fall to address short-term rentals.

WATCH: This is VANCOLOUR host, Mo Amir, sat down with Ravi Kahlon to learn more about the housing plan.

-With files from CHEK’s Rob Shaw

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