Non-resident buyers snap up Vancouver homes to run illegal Airbnb hotels despite tax

By Amy Chen

Non-resident buyers are still snapping up homes in Vancouver to turn them into illegal short term rental hotels on Airbnb and other platforms despite the 15% foreign buyer tax imposed last year, an analysis of short term rental listings show.

In one instance, the Colorado couple Lawrence J. Fluss and Deborah L. Fluss bought the three-bedroom home at 2624 W 3rd Ave for $2.3 million in December 2016[1] and are now offering it on Airbnb for $599 per night[2]

ThinkPol found that the property was previously offered for legal long term rent for $2,500 per month.

The Airbnb listing is managed by an individual named Sasha Fluss, a self-described house flipper from Colorado[3]

Airbnb and other short term rentals are illegal under City of Vancouver bylaws unless operated with a Bed and Breakfast licence[4], but there was no record of the property being licensed as a B&B.

Studies have shown that Airbnb is exacerbating the housing crisis in Vancouver buy taking homes out of the city’s ever shrinking rental pool.

“In light of Vancouver’s chronically low vacancy rate, the percentage of renters who are currently stretching to afford their housing, the costs and time involved in constructing new rental housing, the financial incentives built-in to short-term rentals and the competition for housing that Airbnb sets up between tenants and tourists, it seems clear that the number of housing units being used for short-term tourist purposes poses an obstacle to city achieving its ambitious goals of ensuring that people of all incomes, ages, abilities and family types can find housing near where they work, or in the areas where they have set down roots and built social connections,” research by Simon Fraser University’s Karen Sawatzky concluded[5]

ThinkPol’s findings add credence to what housing advocates have long claimed: 15% foreign buyer tax insufficient to dissuade international speculation in Vancouver’s housing market.

“15% is chump change for international investors,” Affordable Housing Canada said in statement. “Christy Clark’s BC Liberals knew very well that the foreign millionaires would chalk it up as cost of doing business.”

Meanwhile, a Vancouver Sun investigation earlier this year found that the City of Vancouver has done little to crackdown on Airbnb and other illegal short term rentals, conducting only three site visits in a year despite receiving hundreds of tips[6]

Housing advocates are urging Mayor Gregor Robertson to take decisive action to shut down illegal short term rentals.

“Airbnb is illegal and making Vancouverites homeless,” AHC added in its statement. “Mayor Gregor Robertson has admitted that ‘short-term rentals have gobbled up a lot of the long-term rental supply’ but refuses to fix the problem.”

“If Mayor Robertson wants to convince us that he’s not deeply indebted to his developer donors – developers, who greatly benefit from Airbnb jacking up property prices and rents in the city – he needs to start enforcing the bylaws that make Airbnb illegal in the city and shut down short term rentals and return homes back to the rental stock,” AHC added.

ThinkPol needs your help. While other media outlets are content reproducing real estate industry press releases, we carry out painstaking analysis of real estate data, spending hours combing through the data. And the data isn’t free. Each title search alone costs us $12.

Please consider chipping in to help ThinkPol.

References   [ + ]


21 Responses to Non-resident buyers snap up Vancouver homes to run illegal Airbnb hotels despite tax

  1. Mary says:

    I paid $1.5m for an investment property but renting at $2000/month is not a good RoI. I also don’t want to deal with tenants and the RTB.

    Airbnb is so much easier.

    And I’ll never get caught because I work for the city. LOL.

  2. Foreign Buyer says:

    We are the world’s 0.1%. Vancouver belongs to us. Your politicians belong to us.

    You’ll spend the rest of your lives in misery as our serfs. Your sons will be our laborers and your daughters our whores.

    You’re penniless and powerless to stop us. The sooner you realize that, the better it’ll be for all.

  3. King Capital says:

    Hahahah. You dogs can go on barking but we are the ones with the money and power. This is our city. We can play you off against each other and if you vote in a new government we will threaten to take the money away. This is the way it has always been. Now be a good dog and fetch my dinner!

  4. Gods_Lamb says:

    Lucky the chinese are small and weak so when we get fed up it will be easy to physically remove these parasites

  5. blahresi says:

    Basic principles of the free market is that the seller has a right to use his asset to maximize profit for himself. Start paying more for rent if you want the apartment or leave the city if you can’t afford it. As a user of Airbnb I want the right to rent an apartment for cheaper than a hotel and enjoy my privacy rather than be stuck in a house with the owner. Your rights for housing aren’t more important than mine. All these idiots crying about Airbnb simply can’t move on with the times. Same group that whines about automation and immigrants stealing “their” jobs now also whines about tourists stealing “their” apartments. Racist, entitled and pathetic.

  6. Mary says:

    ThinkPol is such a rag they have to beg to find money to spend $12 on a title search. LOL.

  7. Sasha says:

    Wow, obviously the author of this did absolutely no research. My family lives part time in Vancouver and actually Lives in our rental! We are all canadian citizens, pay taxes in British Columbia and Canada and could only manage to afford a home in Vancouver if we subsidize it by renting it out when we are not there. How on earth would we rent it long term!?! The basement unit is rented long term and the middle floor unit is rented for a 6mo lease. The top floor unit we use ourselves and of course need income to cover the Monstrous mortgage in the mean time!
    Do your research next time before calling people out. And please take down the picture of me that you have posted for this article without Any consent

    • Sasha says:

      and for the record, we are Not foreign buyers

    • BanAirbnb says:

      I don’t believe you at all. First, your listing says “Entire Kits Heritage Home”. You go on to talk about how to suites are available.

      And Airbnb is illegal. It doesn’t matter that you do it to cover the “monstrous mortgage”. The reason houses are so expensive is because people buy them and then use Airbnb to cover unaffordable mortgages. Without Airbnb prices will crash.

      The fact of the matter is, you broke the law by using Airbnb and got caught badly. Now you have to live with the consequences.

      • VanRant says:

        Ya why buy a tri-plex in one of our most expensive neighbourhoods if the family needed to go against our bylaws just to be able to pay the mortgage?

        This type of behavior is what drives prices up AND takes suites away from locals.

        I see the listings are now deleted.

        Sasha had a slew of listings on there, not just the Kitsilano house, it’s obvious that earning income from Airbnb is the intention, rather than “just trying to pay the mortgage”

    • Crusty Free says:

      Why should we believe that you have Canadian citizenship? I checked myself and both Lawrence J. Fluss and Deborah L. Fluss are registered voters in Colorado.

      Vancouverites living fulltime in Vancouver can’t afford housing because of scum who by expensive houses and turn them into Airbnb illegal hotels.

      • BeeDee says:

        Why should we believe you that you are Crusty Free? You’ve offered no proof that you aren’t covered head-to-toe in Crusty. Baseless accusations in the comments section of a poorly sourced online mag don’t really carry weight in the real world, sorry folks.

        Trying to fight AirBnB is like trying to fight Uber…if there is demand and someone is willing to provide a service, it will happen. The best we can do is accept it and develop a legal framework for regulating it instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist.

        It’s not this couple’s misfortune that they worked hard enough to work their way up the property ladder and made some good investment choices in a free market. It is, however, their misfortune that so many trolls decided to jump on the s**t-wagon that Twitter gave birth to and this website decided to perpetuate. Grow up, all of you.

    • Crusty Free says:

      Your comment contradicts the information in your Airbnb listing:

      “Rent out the entire 2 suite of our fully renovated Kits Heritage home. Perfect for large families, bigger groups, parents and kids etc! Top floor suite features 2 Queen bedrooms and main floor suite features 1 King bedroom and fold out couch.”

    • Scam Spotter says:

      “Dr” Sasha Fluss is a “doctor” of naturopathy. Naturopathy is a massive psuedo-scientific scam just like homeopathy.

    • Reply to Sasha says:

      Dear Sasha,

      Your Airbnb listing in Kits has been published on many different platforms, in many different groups and all over the internet. This is not the only article that you are featured in. I am horrified that in the midst of a housing crisis in my city where I live and work and have grown up in you are choosing to engage in the use of Airbnb which has clearly been extremely detrimental to our city, and is 100% illegal. Do you work in Vancouver? Do you pay your income tax in Vancouver? Do you declare the money you’re making on your house in Vancouver? The people who live and work in Vancouver are subsidizing your home for you. Quite frankly it makes me sick. You’re a self described house flipper–alongside that and using Airbnb. I hope you and your husband rethink your illegal activity, the people of Vancouver do not welcome you!

    • Reply to Sasha says:

      So your family decided to buy a $2.3 million home… which they only live in part time…. with a ‘monstrous mortgage’… and the only way the math made sense was by short term renting it out?? Sounds like financial prudence at its finest..

      If you truly only live in the top floor (which is 2 beds and 1 bath), why not just buy a smaller apartment in the same area for much cheaper??…

      I agree the aspect of citizenship is less relevant here, because it can not be confirmed… but the home has definitely been used illegally as a short term rental… based on your dad’s bio, I see your family was from the U.S. then came to B.C., but have since moved on to Boulder (in 2012)… where you dad says “he now considers Boulder his home”

      One interesting point when you look at the title search is the mortgage is from an Alt-A lender (Home Trust Company)… which is surprising if the owners on title were declaring their worldwide incomes in Canada… (one being an optometrist)… may suggest that while they are Canadian citizens, they are potentially not residents for tax purposes in Canada..

      • Re: says:

        I agree the title of this article has been sensationalized to get attention… I probably wouldn’t have played the foreign buyer card without confirming, as they may be dual citizens (and appear to be based on the above)… but it is still clearly an illegal short term rental… and one owned by someone who lives part time in the city…

  8. Sasha is Lying says:

    The same listing is listed on VRBO, it states

    “*Please note the entire home may be rented as well which sleeps 8 in 2 suites (top floor and main floor) in 3 bedrooms and pull out. Please inquire about rates and availability!”

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