Are Online Vacation Renters Displacing Vancouverites?

My story on how short-term rentals, as facilitated Airbnb and similar web tools, affect the supply of long-term rental housing in Vancouver appeared in The Tyee on June 27. Read all about it here: Are Online Vacation Renters Displacing Vancouverites?

I was pleased to see follow-up coverage by CBC Radio and TV. BC Almanac did a segment July 5, which covered much of the same ground as my story, though focused more on the lack of lodging taxes paid in these transactions.

Then on July 6, CBC TV did a 2-minute news segment. It’s great to see this, though I note that they interviewed a Yaletown resident who rents out the second bedroom in his condo. From a safety and security point of view, that sort of short-term rental is not really the issue, since the host will often be present when the guest is there and that does a lot to mitigate concerns and risks.

More to my point, I would argue that renting out a spare room (or an entire apartment or home while the usual resident is away) has a fairly minimal effect on the supply of rental housing that’s available to actual Vancouver residents. It’s true that that second bedroom could be housing a local resident instead of a tourist and we certainly need all the affordable housing we can get in Vancouver. But I think policy-makers should be much more concerned about the many entire apartments, condos and secondary suites and houses that are being rented to tourists (at higher rates and without the oversight of the Residential Tenancy Act) instead of adding to the city’s woefully inadequate and aging rental housing stock.

I also don’t know, but would like to, where CBC TV got the figure of 3,000 rooms available for short-term rental to tourists.

Elsewhere, Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs elaborated on the comments of his I included in my story on his own blog. And a Gabriola blogger chipped in here.

Have Airbnb evictions arrived in Vancouver?

While researching my story on short-term rentals for The Tyee back in the spring, I asked the Tenants Resource and Advisory Centre whether staff there had heard of any Vancouver tenants being evicted to make way for short-term rentals. The answer was no, but that was before Plan A Real Estate bought 1168 Pendrell (Hoffmann Manor), a low-rise apartment building in Vancouver’s West End, in August and promptly began issuing eviction notices to tenants.

Wanting to make a property available for short-term rental is not legal grounds for eviction, so no sane landlord would ever state that as a cause. However, based on what I’ve gathered from media reports, Twitter, and the Greedevictions blog set up by Hoffman Manor tenants, Plan A was illegally renting out apartments in that building on a short-term basis through Airbnb. It’s hardly a logical leap to conclude that the company’s desire to increase its profits through short-term rentals was one of the factors driving the eviction notices it sent. That said, Plan A has stated that it issued the eviction notices because after taking possession of Hoffman Manor on August 5, it found that tenants were not complying with the terms of their existing leases, and that it had no intention of converting the entire building to short-term rentals. If bringing tenants into compliance with their leases was really the only goal, issuing 11 eviction notices within a month of taking over is an inept and draconian way to go about it. For a professional property management company to make that claim strains credulity, but that is nevertheless what Plan A has said. Continue reading