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Back to Business: cracking down on Airbnb kills entrepreneurial spirit

For many families, City Hall’s efforts to make Vancouver more affordable are making things worse
Credit: BigTunaOnline /

Last month, the City of Vancouver placed more restrictions on Airbnb hosts. Thousands of Vancouver listings were pulled off the short-term rental site as new regulations came into effect.

The rules stipulate that homeowners are only allowed to rent out their primary residences on the site, and must have a licence to do so. Short-term rentals in any potion of a home that isn’t the owners’ principal residence are illegal. Still own your entry-level condo where mom stays when she comes to visit? Now, you’re not allowed to rent it for the rest of the year.

According to the City, the number of listings on Airbnb has fallen from 6,600 in April to 3,742. They claim the home sharing site is eating into Vancouver’s supply of affordable housing, and that’s why the practice must be quelled.

The theory goes that if homes weren’t listed on Airbnb, they would automatically enter the long-term rental pool. However, according to Airbnb, this isn’t necessarily true, saying instead that the majority of Vancouverites who list properties “do so a few nights a month to earn a modest, supplemental income.”

The rest? They’re trying to work their way up a property ladder that seems skewed against them.

Why should the City punish entrepreneurial spirit?

Not only is buying your first home in Vancouver tough, so is trading up from that initial entry-level property. According to a TD Bank report, “buyer gridlock” is an affliction caused by sky-high home prices.

Those who bought into the market with an entry level home hoping to be able to buy something larger a few years later, find themselves stuck because that next step is just too expensive.

Creative and motivated Vancouverites are thinking of ways to make the seemingly impossible happen, whether it’s renting out their entry level home, and renting or buying something else for themselves more suited to their needs, maybe as their family grows.

On average, a home listed on Airbnb brings in more money per month than a long-term rental. With that in mind, homeowners have grown to rely on that income to support themselves – and in some cases, qualify for their current mortgage.

As a result, it’s likely this crackdown will have an unintended ripple effect.

It seems the City is mostly concerned about large companies running multiple rentals. Airbnb has indicated that commercial operators are unwelcome, and they are willing to work with the City to create regulations around that. So why the heavy hand?

For tourists and travelers, Airbnb is often much cheaper than a hotel, which often costs more than $300 per night.

For many locals, it’s a financial lifeline.

The City of Vancouver’s approach scares all Airbnb hosts out of engaging with short-term rentals, and does nothing to help affordability.

It hurts those who are doing their best to make ends meet – in a market that already has them fighting uphill.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]