Five things I’ve been told about Air BnB: good, bad and ugly

rentEver since coverage began last week about my motion to step up city oversight of Air BnB listings and their impact on rental stock, my inbox has been receiving a complete range of comment, positive and negative, on this important issue.

(Council unanimously approved the motion Wednesday. You can watch the debate here. We hope to have something back from staff early in the fall.)

Here are five samples, in no particular order, names removed for privacy:

1. Councillor Meggs, you should be ashamed

from a concerned Vancouver resident and AirBnB host:

Councillor Meggs: yourself, the mayor and the rest of the council should be absolutely ashamed at how you are handling Vancouver’s housing crisis. You are turning a blind eye to the needs of the everyday working people in this city and are allowing Vancouver to become a playground for the wealthy. Instead of tackling the real aforementioned issues, you are pointing the finger at AirBnB hosts because this is the easy option and it makes you look like you’re doing your job. You’re not fooling me . . .

I know from personal experience that AirBnB rentals create a net-positive community and economic impact in Vancouver, and I welcome any regulations, licenses or taxation so that myself and other residents can continue to thrive instead of just merely survive in this beautiful city we call home.

2. Our condo community is under assault

from a Yaletown resident

Our building, like most downtown condos have seen a radical shift from long term renters to short term vacation rentals.  This erodes the residential nature of our complex.  For example, we become ‘party-central’ during special events like the Rubgy 7’s, or Women’s World Cup Soccer.  Drunken brawls, interfere with resident families’ quiet enjoyment of our homes.  Drunken revellers have full access to the children’s play area, spa, etc. causing serious tensions and parental concern.  Our population of Chinese seniors is particularly negatively impacted by these shenanigans.

Further, these short term rentals increase costs.  Heavy hotel type  use of amenities, elevators, etc. drive up our maintenance costs, making home ownership and long term rentals more expensive.

Our strata corporation bylaws forbid short term vacation rentals, and we levy fines.  However, the Strata Property Act is not particularly friendly to strata corporations attempting to achieve compliance.  Many owners just continue with their activities regardless of bylaws.

3. I love it, but ban it

Adam writes:

I’ve been on both sides of Air BnB as both host and user, I think it’s great and I love it. But Vancouver should definitely make it illegal within the city. There is already a massive shortage of rental units within the city (I know, I just spent 3 horrific months looking) with 3000-5000 units  lost to Air BnB. It’s hard enough to live in a city where a one bedroom suite can cost $800-$1000 if that suite was suddenly $80 per night with black out nights where you had to move somewhere else it would be almost impossible to find a home in an already difficult market. Plus there are already legit bnbs that are licenced and pay taxes. No to AirBnB in Vancouver.

4. Enforcement has to be quick and effective

A resident unhappy with the city’s response:

In my view there was no truly effective  CoV enforcement remediation to what were multiple blatant and illegal bylaw, development and business operation violations, and the impacts and concerns of neighbouring properties and owners  were effectively dismissed and subordinated vis a vis the illegal business operations activity and illegal development that occurred by neighbouring property owners.  Law abiding neighbours who actually follow bylaws are just left to deal with any impacts and fallout, including building code and safety concerns being completely ignored by the CoV.  This is viewed as completely unacceptable as left unchecked issues are only expected to get worse over time.

5. No one to call for help
From a victim of the slowing economy and low vacancy rates:
I was laid off from my job as an engineer in 2013 and have not had any success in finding a new job. It was my one and only time that I used Air BnB (I hope never to use it again because I realized how it was a way people were taking advantage of a hot housing market/crisis).  I learned from her when I stayed there that [my host] had five different units she had listed on Air BnB. I was totally disturbed by this and did not know who to report this too. So I did nothing but reading about this in the papers this week it has me committed to try and stop this illegal activity.
I am also finding it difficult to find a place for rent. I have temporary housing where I share with five others and I pay $850 a month. I suspect the woman I am renting from also does so on Air BnB. Or at least I was told by another tenant that she did before and now she gets approached by those same people and they bypass Air BnB and contact her directly. But it is desperate times for people to find a place to even live in this city, never mind living in luxury . . .
I read over the last few weeks that not many people were reporting any wrong doing by people abusing of the Air BnB system (Emily actually told me that was her career plan to have several Air BnB units and earn a living from that – I do not think that was the initial intention of Aid BnB but it evidently is being used like this by many others). People probably were not reporting much concern over Air BnB because like me they had no idea where and who to contact.