Vancouver Seeks Housing Relief With Short Term Rentals, Empty House Tax


In Vancouver, British Columbia, Airbnb and Expedia have a lock on 90% of the short term rental activity. Mayor Gregor Robertson claims that “Short term rentals now make up 30% of Vancouver’s accommodations for tourists. Airbnb is effectively Vancouver’s largest hotel.” Since the city has a low vacancy rate for housing. city officials want to put limits on this type of rental.

Given their housing shortage, Vancouver, BC seeks to regulate short-term rentals that allow owners or renters to only sublet their principal residence. Learn more.

Proposed Limits On Short Term Rentals

The goal in establishing short-term rental policies is to preserve the right of property owners to rent out their property while keeping housing “for homes first.” Proposed legislation, said to come into effect in April 2018, would allow homeowners and mentors to list their primary residence on Airbnb and similar sites for a $49 fee. They could not apply for licenses for basement apartments, laneway homes, or second homes. The result of this law would be to take about 1,000 listings off the market (30%), while leaving 70% untouched. Airbnb would have to list the license number online and a transaction fee of up to 3% to the city, along with federal and provincial taxes.

As the city clamps down on short-term rentals, there is also great concern about empty homes which are often used as short-term rentals. In 2017, an annual empty home tax of 1% of the homes assessed value will be charged to owners if the home is not lived in on a long-term basis by the owner or a long-term tenant.

The proposed law has made housing advocates wonder what the impact will be on low income residents. Karen Sawatzky, head of the city’s Renter’s Advisory Committee, notes, many low income people who cannot afford to rent a home or apartment can comfortably afford a room in a house. According to Sawatzky, these new regulations do not address the issue of a dwindling supply of long-term room rentals.