“We are looking at all tools available to the City to create a level playing field for access to affordable, quality rental housing,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, on March 29th, 2016. This somewhat delicate statement, underlies the Mayor’s desire to be seen to be doing something, to address the likes of AirBNB, Flipkey, Couchsurfing, Roomorama and HomeAway, to mention a few and the perceived negative impact that these services are having on access to rental accommodation within the City of Vancouver. This type of pronouncement has become the clarion call of primarily front-line municipal and provincial governments whom, at the risk of alienating their industry support base, take steps to delay or fend off various aspects of the shared economy.
In that regard Vancouver City Council, in a motion passed on April 6th, 2016 (which recognized an extremely low rental vacancy rate in the City of less than 1.00% and an aggregate AirBNB listing total of 4,000 units within the City), resolved to obtain a report from City Staff, on the impact of short term rentals on housing stock and home ownership in Vancouver. The preamble to the motion is interesting, in that it appears to define the problem, prior to City Staff commencing their report, which may well belie the true perspective of the Mayor and his Vision Vancouver Councillors, on this matter.
Oddly, or perhaps not, there is no reference to the supply-side of the equation. There is no reference to adapted zoning or other measures to increase the supply of rental units. There is silence on the question of tackling the increasingly more Byzantinian City Hall operations, inhibiting or stymieing real estate development within the City of Vancouver (a trend that commenced upon the arrival of Mayor Robertson, Penny Ballem, et. al. – the latter now departed), and there is no sensitivity or evident awareness of the more multi-faceted market solutions to the supply of various types of accommodation and housing.
While it is possible that City Council will, with City Staff’s capable assistance, find a way to balance the needs and advantages of short term rental supply within the City against the needs of longer term rental accommodation consumers, it is equally fair to say, that the City has struggled to find the equitable, transparent and economically stimulative solutions to these sorts of issues in the past. If that trend continues, consumers of long and short term rental accommodation within the City will be left “sleeping rough” on this issue.