City of Vancouver defends decisions to pack advisory panel with Airbnb operators

Signs on the front of Vancouver condo. [GoToVan/Flickr]

The City of Vancouver is defending its decision to allocate half the spots on a 14-member short-term rental community working group to Airbnb operators while only selecting two renters to voice the views of those impacted by vacation rental platforms.

City’s Chief Licencing Officer Chief Licence Inspector Kathryn Kolbuch Holm had earlier come under heavy criticism for setting aside seven spots on the panel to Airbnb operators – including at least one who’s operating short-term rentals illegally.

Renters make up over half of Vancouver’s population while Airbnb hosts account to less than 1% of the city’s residents.

But Holm does not see an issue with the over-representation of short-term rental operators and an under-representation of renters on the panel.

“To ensure a diverse and balanced set of viewpoints and a broad mix of community voices, we worked with an independent and objective external facilitator to ensure a balance of voices and experiences in regards to short-term rentals were represented,” She explained to ThinkPol. “The goal of the working group is to have a range of voices of short-term rental operators and non-operators, comprised of both renters and homeowners, who live in different types of housing and neighborhoods across the City.”

The “independent and objective external facilitator” in question is Maria Stanborough, a former City of Vancouver staffer involved in the controversial VanSplash plan which sought to shut down community pools.

VanSplash became so unpopular that residents held protests demanding that the city drop the plan[1]

It is estimated that at least half of all Airbnb listings in Vancouver are in breach of the City’s short-term rental bylaws[2]

Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms have long been accused of exacerbating Vancouver’s housing crisis by taking away units from the long-term rental market and turning them into vacation rentals.

The short-term rental working group is scheduled to hold its first meeting virtual on Monday November 30.

But renter Ryan Ho, who was forced to move from his last place after the landlord turned it to a short-term rental on Airbnb, thinks the whole working group is a charade.

“I reported the illegal Airbnb that used to be my home to the City of Vancouver and the city hall did absolutely nothing,” Ho told ThinkPol. “This working group looks like it’s just a dog and pony show to make people feel the city’s doing something about illegal Airbnbs. But even with that, they found a way to stick it to the renters.”

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