|Experts from left to right: Tej Kainth, Lindsay Kaisaris, and Ian Marjoribanks. Select image to enlarge.|
Last night was the very first Metro Conversations. Metro Conversations is based on the format of the SFU City Conversations where experts and other attendees engage in a conversation about an urban topic. The difference is that Metro Conversations starts where the City of Vancouver border ends.
Short-term rentals and their impact was the inaugural topic. We had Lindsay Kaisaris who is the owner of Re-up BBQ and an AirBnB Operator, Tej Kainth who is the Executive Director of Tourism New Westminster, and Ian Marjoribanks who is a UBC SCARP student and AirBnB researcher.
This conversation was recorded, and I will post it online once it is available, but I wanted to highlight some of the broad themes that emerged last night.
Marjoribanks noted that home ownership is heavily subsidized in Canada by way of CMHC-insured mortgages and primary residence property tax relief. He noted short-term rental operators are taking advantage of these subsidies for profit whereas other accommodation providers can not. He also noted that short-term rentals reduce long-term rental stock in the region.
Kaisaris noted that AirBnB has helped her family make ends meet even with the high-cost of housing because it has allowed them to monetize a spare room. Other attendees also shared anecdotes about friends who have used short-term rentals as a way to either help pay rent or a mortgage.
I think that everyone in the room recognized that short-term rentals need to have some form of regulatory framework and taxation. For example, Kainth noted that Tourism New Westminster not only markets that community to attract tourist dollars, but also provides marketing resources that are being used by short-term rental hosts. One of the ways that some organizations such as Tourism New Westminster are funded is by a hotel tax, in some municipalities. Should the hotel tax model be extended to short-term rentals? Likely.
Also, traditional accommodations need business licenses, and have a higher safety and accessibility standard that their buildings must meet. There was a general feeling that short-term hosts should also have to adhere to some minimal set of standards and licensing.
One of the more thought provoking parts of the conversation was around the impact of short-term rentals on the affordability of long-term rental units in Metro Vancouver. Marjoribanks stated that some of the wealth created from short-term rentals should be pumped into building purpose-built affordable rental units in the region.
What exactly affordability is was never defined, but I think affordable housing will need to extend to include some middle-class people that traditionally have never part of the affordable rental conversation.
Kaisaris stated that she and other short-term rental hosts would be good with paying a tax or fee which would be used to build more affordable long-term rental units in the region.
This blog post only highlighted a fraction of the hour-long conversation. The next conversation will be hosted in the City of Langley in February, and topic will be “Affordability: Knocking down old apartments without kicking people to the street; aka, How to build mixed-income communities outside of Vancouver.”
Councillor Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster hosted this conversation. Councillor Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver and Kiersten Duncan from Maple Ridge are also part of our Metro Conversations organizing committee.