Airbnb asks government to bail out hosts in Canada

Airbnb spent the last decade ruthlessly going after all levels of government to remove or water down housing rules that stand in the way of long term rental units being turned into irregular hotels.

Airbnb hosts labelled government attempts to regulate short term rentals as government trampling on “individual property rights”.

But as bookings collapse amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the short term rental is asking the government to bail out hosts.

And no, that’s not an April Fools joke.

Airbnb Canada’s public policy director Alex Dagg wrote a letter to Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland requesting government handouts for “regular Canadians who share their homes to earn extra income.”

Airbnb is asking the government to make employment benefits available to Airbnb hosts.

“Non-traditional workers like Airbnb hosts who are currently experiencing income losses could be supported through the El system,” Dagg wrote. “We suggest that additional benefits be made available to these individuals for loss of business income during the course of this pandemic. We further support temporarily cancelling the 12-month waiting period before an individual can access these benefits.”

Airbnb also wants the government to defer sales taxes for short term rentals.

“We are requesting a temporary waiver of the obligation for hosts above the $30,000
threshold to charge, collect and remit the GST/HST, while still allowing them to claim credits for their inputs,” Dagg wrote. “Accommodation would not be subject to GST/HST, but the host community could still get credits for the GST/HST paid on their business expenses. This type of tax treatment, referred to as “zero-rating”, already exists for certain suppliers and would be both effective and relatively straightforward to implement.”

The platform also wants the government to defer income taxes for Airbnb hosts.

“A well-known rate reduction scheme is the one available to the manufacturing sector,” Dagg wrote. “We request a conceptually similar treatment for the tourism industry. In other words, an overall rate reduction for Canadian-controlled homes and experience hosts generating income from the tourism industry below a given threshold.”

Airbnb’s ask for government bailouts come even as a study last year funded by the Government of Canada found that short term rental platforms have taken out at least 31,000 homes from the long term rental market.

The study led by David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University, found that lion’s share of the revenue was earned by commercial operators – hosts with two or more entire-home listings or three or more private-room listings.

When the City of Vancouver first proposed the idea of regulating short terms rentals, some Vancouver hosts called the city council a “Communist government.”

“It seems extremely unfair to penalize these owners for the basic freedom of doing what they want with it,” Airbnb host Nicole Chang wrote to the council. “Does the City of Vancouver have the right to tell people what and how to run their lives? It sounds like a Communist government, don’t you think?”