AirBnB to get scrutiny from municipalities

Municipal leaders will next month debate what to do about online accommodation booking service

  • Tue Aug 23rd, 2016 7:00am
  • News

Jeff NagelBlack Press

Municipal leaders will next month debate what to do about online accommodation booking services like Airbnb, which are blamed for shifting part of the long-term rental supply to more lucrative vacation rentals while dodging the taxes that hotel and B&B operators pay.

Four resolutions will be before the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria in September to seek provincial government regulation of short-term rentals.

People renting out rooms, suites or entire homes through Airbnb avoid paying a variety of taxes – from higher commercial property tax rates to sales and room taxes – that represent up to 25 to 30 per cent of a regular room’s costs, according to one resolution from the Sun Peaks mountain resort municipality.

It demands “taxation fairness” and an equitable competitive environment between all providers and notes local tourism promotion may also be harmed because those marketing campaigns are often funded by a two to three per cent room tax.

The City of Vancouver’s resolution warns the “explosive growth” of online accommodation platforms has created an urgent need “to protect affordable housing stock for long-term residents.”

Vancouver urges the province to collect all applicable sales taxes at point of purchase on daily private room rentals.

The tracking site Inside Airbnb shows nearly 1,700 listings are in Victoria and the Capital Regional District.

But smaller B.C. municipalities as far-flung as Tofino and Nelson have also been grappling with how to respond, sometimes facing resistance from locals who want to keep earning extra money from bookings through Airbnb.

The provincial government has been consulting with municipalities and other stakeholders about potential regulation of so-called sharing economy services such as Airbnb, and particularly the ride-hailing app Uber.

Community Minister Peter Fassbender has yet to report his findings or issue recommendations, and an official in his ministry said the consultations are ongoing.