Housing activist educating Vancouverites on Airbnb bylaws and how to report violators

By Lisa Tanh

Many Vancouverites are still unaware of the City of Vancouver’s new short-term rental bylaws and how to properly report violations, says a local housing activist.

Ulrike Rodrigues, an East Vancouver resident, said she’s been receiving several messages on Facebook about the short-term rental bylaws[1]http://bylaws.vancouver.ca/consolidated/12078.PDF due to information not being available or easily found on the city’s website.

“What I’m finding are super basic questions,” Rodrigues said. “For example, number one is, ‘Where can I read the bylaws’ [and] ‘What are the bylaws?’ When they were enacted on April 19, you still couldn’t find them anywhere — not even on the short-term rental page.”

Rodrigues, who has been pushing the city to shutdown illegal commercial Airbnb operations since 2014[2]http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/airbnb-causing-condo-conflict-in-vancouver-1.2839010, has also been asked about how to report violations[3]https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1787182338257497&id=1468542630121471, the violation fines and the dates to avoid them.

“I’ve been sharing them through social media as best as I can,” Rodrigues said. “I’m almost thinking I need to create some kind of website or something.”

On May 12, Rodrigues will attend the city’s info session[4]http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/calendar-of-events.aspx?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D127505982 on their short-term rental bylaws and has been encouraging the public to attend — especially apartment dwellers — through her Facebook event[5]https://www.facebook.com/events/478889262528358/. She considers it an opportunity to make their voices heard and ask questions on accountability, insurance, safety and other concerns.

“If there’s an opportunity, I will step forward and say, ‘I’m now using your new mechanisms to make another complaint and what do people like me do to ensure you’re actually taking action on this?” Rodrigues said.

As for new mechanisms, Rodrigues has been using the city’s new chat feature on their short-term rental page to ask complicated questions and receive follow-ups on reported violations. She’s also been calling the city’s 311 line and their VanConnect app — which she finds more effective than social media.

“I know they pay a lot of attention to 311 reports and VanConnect — which is connected to 311,” Rodrigues said. “Let’s help make their jobs easier. Be the neighborhood watch, the eyes on the street.”

But Rodrigues stressed that these mechanisms alone aren’t enough to stay informed and help the city. She suggests going down to city hall to speak with staff and councillors and participating in public hearings.

“Speak up,” Rodrigues said. “I’m hearing from both staff and journalists that they need to hear more stories from the community of how bad actors are impacting them. So get off social media and actually fill in a complaint form. Get the ball rolling.”

References   [ + ]

1. http://bylaws.vancouver.ca/consolidated/12078.PDF
2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/airbnb-causing-condo-conflict-in-vancouver-1.2839010
3. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1787182338257497&id=1468542630121471
4. http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/calendar-of-events.aspx?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D127505982
5. https://www.facebook.com/events/478889262528358/