Vancouver Airbnb bylaw loophole threatens rental stock

By Lisa Tanh

A loophole in the City of Vancouver’s new short-term rental bylaw could wipe out a big chunk of the city’s secondary suite stock, according to a complaint by a concerned citizen.

Ethan, a born and raised Vancouverite, who asked to not use his legal name to avoid personal attacks, provided ThinkPol transcripts of a complaint he made to the city through website’s live chat feature.

He explained to ThinkPol that the bylaw’s principal residence requirement could create even more problems than help solve them due to “gray areas.”

For example, a homeowner who turned their basement into a secondary suite may convert it back into being part of their principal residence, just so they can apply for a business license to become a short-term rental operator.

“I would’ve thought that [the city] would have some kind of moratorium,” Ethan told ThinkPol. “Like, if you’ve got a secondary suite license, you can’t just reverse that license and then quickly go into a short-term rental license. Because that would defeat the purpose of having this policy that isn’t supposed to affect renter, right?”

According to Ethan, secondary suites are typically found in single-family neighborhoods that are “nice, close-knit communities.”

“It’d be a shame to butcher that channel of rental opportunities because of this policy,” Ethan said.

Ethan is hoping the city will provide disincentives for homeowners who are contemplating this move.

“Perhaps implementing a one-year waiting period between when a homeowner removes their registered secondary suite before they can apply for an short-term rental license,” Ethan said.

According to the city, there are approximately 30,000 secondary suites in Vancouver and less than 10 per cent are registered with the city.

In an emailed statement, the city said, “As with any new policy the city implements, we will be monitoring the response to this policy and adapt it over time as necessary” and that “this spring the city will launch a review of the current secondary suite program[1] to assess barriers or challenges and to recommend strategies in increase uptake and compliance.”

“In my view, if this were to happen in significant numbers, this would exacerbate the rental stock shortages even further,” Ethan said.

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