After cracking down on short term rentals, City Hall wants a piece of the pie - The Orca
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After cracking down on short term rentals, City Hall wants a piece of the pie

Ada-Slivinski
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Ada Slivinski: On short-term rentals, Vancouver seems to want it both ways – to regulate them out of business, but also a share of tax revenue.

There’s a parcel of land for sale in Vancouver for $108,000.

It’s just 540 square feet and the City has said building a house is a no-go. It’s maybe big enough to potentially park a small airstream trailer.

Something that size could house a single person or even a couple. Alternately, if it was decorated with just the right amount of hipster touches, fetch at least a hundred dollars a night in rent on Airbnb. But oh wait, this is Vancouver and neither of those things are allowed.

Recommendations for the lot? A park or an add-on to the neighbouring property which is also for sale – for $1.5 million.

This little lot demonstrates the City’s rigidity when it comes to housing. A year has passed since the City of Vancouver first implemented its short-term rental management program – when it yanked the metaphorical rug out from under homeowners hoping to cash in or cover their costs with Airbnb properties.

Portions of commercial properties previously turned into short-term rental units which steadily garnered 5-star reviews due to interesting architectural features or heated garages with a bed, sofa and microwave being rented at an affordable price were all nixed. The bylaw bans rental of an accessory building, vehicle or unlawful dwelling unit, and also any property that is not the owner’s principal residence.

This means someone with entrepreneurial spirit and access to 100K who wanted to create a mini-hotel room on that small Vancouver lot simply can’t happen under current regulations. Meanwhile, dozens of people are still camping out in Oppenheimer Park illegally every night.

What the City needs in this case is more flexibility towards those trying to boost their income with short term rentals so they can actually afford to live in a city this expensive.

But that’s not all. Last week, Vancouver City Council approved a motion for Mayor Kennedy Stewart to write the BC government, asking for “an equitable framework to share the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) revenue generated from short-term rentals in Vancouver with the City for the purpose of funding affordable housing.”

In other words, Council wants a piece of the pie. It’s apparently not enough to force property owners to jump through endless hoops to legally operate short term rentals. If they somehow do it and turn a profit, City Hall will be waiting on the other side with a tax bill.

The crackdown on short term rentals is hurting the very people it was purportedly designed to help – the middle class. Stricter regulations and more hands in the tax pot are just going to make this worse.

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 ada@jampr.co

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