airbnb.png

A screenshot from yesterday’s airbnb site, featuring two complete units for short-term “holiday” rental (probably taking them out of the city’s rental supply semi-permanently) and one share room (a mortgage or rent helper for the long-term tenant or owner, maybe?).

Allen Garr in The Courier has written two long columns on airbnb, last week and this week, both negative about its impact on the city. One bite from yesterday’s:

While the city of Vancouver continues, as it has for years now, to do nothing more than ponder the problems of short-term rentals, the likes of Airbnb continue to encourage illegal activities that significantly reduce the availability of affordable rental properties and drive up the cost of real estate.

The activities are illegal because they violate a city zoning restriction that prohibits rentals of less than 30 days without a license for a hotel or a bed and breakfast operation. According to the city’s chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif, this is the case in virtually all Airbnb listing in Vancouver, which, as I noted last week, number 4,728 — of which 67 per cent, or 3,179, are either complete homes or apartments.

Simon Fraser University graduate student Karen Sawatzky has been drilling away at this issue for almost three years now as she puts together her Urban Studies master’s thesis on the impact Airbnb has been having on affordable rental housing in our city.

She notes several city policies that are in conflict with the growing impact of Airbnb aside from the zoning bylaw on short-term rentals. There is also the great amount of noise the city makes about being a green city with affordable housing. Yet because of Airbnb, more people are forced out of the core of the city where they could either walk to work or cycle and instead are required to commute.

Aside from impact on the environment, a city study pointed out that by adding the cost of commuting to the cost of rent for those forced out of the city’s core, the cost of living is less affordable than simply renting in Kits or the West End.

I’ve used airbnb in Seattle, Fort Worth, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Marrakech, Tangier and elsewhere; only in Barcelona was there a hint of it being “destructive” in the sense of smashing through regulations (by not paying tax). It depends on the city, and Vancouver is obviously one where it is having a deep impact.
I’m a survivor, just barely, of the so-called “creative destruction” of Amazon (and Chapters in Canada) – a business model that drives authors’ royalties to near zero, puts publishers on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushes independent bookstores to the wall. I’m watching the “Uber alles”-taxi battle here with interest, wondering if it’s just a variation on the egg-quota wars under our supply-managed food system.
Is there some middle ground that would allow airbnb to operate, or is it just destructive of our need to have a stable population in good rental accommodation?