It’s a crisis in need of an emergency fix and Victoria City Council is racing to come up with solutions to the rental housing crisis, including an Airbnb tax. April Lawrence reports.
It’s estimated there are hundreds of condo units and suites in Victoria being rented out as short-term vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb and some on city council want to put an end to it. “We are in the midst of a housing crisis and to me, that’s our top priority is making sure our residents have a place to live,” City Councillor Jeremy Loveday said. On Thursday, Victoria city council will look at rezoning parts of the city to prevent vacation rentals, while forcing others to pay business property taxes and take out business licenses. “If you’re running a business, you need to have a business license, you need to follow the rules,” Loveday said. It’s the latest in a string of solutions the city is scrambling to put together to curb the growing homeless population, not just those on the streets, but working people who simply can’t find rental accommodation. When Victoria’s mayor put forward an idea yesterday for people to open their spare bedrooms to homeless people, the online backlash was swift. “All this is an idea, and people take sides on an idea pretty quickly without even exploring how it could work, or couldn’t work,” Helps said. What people did latch onto, was an online post claiming Helps rents out a suite on Airbnb for $85 dollars a night, or $2,550 a month. “I live alone, in the upper portion of a duplex, which I rent. I do not have an Airbnb suite,” she said. Helps says there is a suite in the house she rents but she has nothing to do with it. She said the post, shared widely on social media, makes claims about her personal life that also aren’t true. “I’ve asked them to take it down and apologize, they’ve said no, so it’s rather disconcerting but it’s not true,” she said. But Helps says not all of the feedback was negative. She has four homeowners, and four homeless people signed on to a focus group to discuss the idea of home sharing further ? another emergency measure to address the crisis while the long-term solution, more housing, gets built.