Provincial support needed to address Short Term Rentals

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Local governments are doing what they can to manage the impact of short-term rentals on their communities’ housing supply, but provincial support is needed in two key areas: requiring booking platforms to provide data to local governments, and ensuring all rental suites have a valid business licence.

Short-term rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo have a potentially significant impact on housing in BC and the rest of Canada. Our senior housing policy analyst Josh van Loon hears about this issue from communities across the Province, but says that limited data sharing makes evidence-based decision making challenging.

Current practices require governments to contract with third-party data providers that scrape booking sites, or assign staff to manually scan online accommodation platforms, which are costly and inefficient approaches that may not always yield accurate and complete data. That’s why one of the top recommendations from a joint UBCM-Province advisory group on short-term rentals that met in 2020-2021 was to require online accommodation platforms to make data available to local governments. The better the data, the better their decisions and responses will be.

Introducing a provincial regulation was another one of the advisory group’s core recommendations, together with a requirement that online accommodation platforms validate business license or permit information with local governments to avoid false information in listings. It is currently up to the local government to track down unlicensed rental suites, like Tofino has been doing. Quebec’s government recently tabled legislation that would shift that responsibility to the booking platform, requiring that valid licences be submitted before a suite can be listed. Provincial legislation would help smaller local governments, that don’t have the financial resources to manage it alone, UBCM President Jen Ford told Canadian Press.

The Province was receptive to the advisory group’s recommendations, and is expected to table related legislation in the fall.