Were behind on all our targets: Despite best efforts, Vancouver moves slowly on affordability measures – CBC.ca

\We\re behind on all our targets\: Despite best efforts, Vancouver moves slowly on affordability measures - CBC.ca
More than 3,600 rogue short-term rental operators in facing enforcement, says City of Vancouver
One day after the City of Vancouver expropriated two SROs in the Downtown Eastside for $1 each, a pair of news releases outlined how broad the city's attempts at providing more affordable housing truly are — and how difficult it is to achieve. 

At 8:26 a.m. PT, it declared that the first year of regulations on short-term rental units had been a "success", trumpeting the fact that more than 2,000 listings had disappeared from websites like AirBnb.

The city put in the regulations partly to entice more people to put unused space in homes toward long-term rental housing. 

"The short-term rental market is complicated, and it's been encouraging to see the steady progress we've been able to make," said Kathryn Holm, the city's chief licence inspector, in a news conference later in the morning. 

The city held the news conference a day after council passed a number of changes to the bylaw, including increasing the annual renewal fee for an individual's short-term rental business licence from $51 to $99 and a new clause making clear that licence holders may not knowingly provide false information on their applications. 

"We do know that there are occasions where folks have been misrepresenting themselves," said Holm. 

The city said they've collected $113,000 to date in violation tickets, along with six convictions in provincial court.

However, the city data showed there were still 1,000 units on the market that were operating without a licence, and Holm acknowledged there were a "number of very egregious operators that continue to persist."

"I think the thing to remember here is every city in the world is struggling with this," she said. 

"There is a persistence of operators who choose to not comply with bylaws and that is not unique to Vancouver."

Two hours later, the city sent out another release, where it revealed it had only approved 649 purpose-built rental units to date this year, less than one-third of its target for 2019. 

In addition, the city has only approved 529 units of social and supportive housing this year — less than half of its 1,200-unit target for 2019 — and just 34 per cent of housing units approved were deemed affordable for people making less than $80,000 a year. 

"There have also been limited social and supportive housing approvals compared to last year, which was the highest level of approvals in a decade. Continued inter-governmental partnerships will be needed to improve this trend," the city said in a statement.

A failure to meet housing goals is also taking place at a regional level. This week, Metro Vancouver revealed that in 2018, only 941 rental units of housing were completed for people making under $60,000 — just 27 per cent of the estimated demand. 

Shortly after both releases were issued by the city, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart spoke in front of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. 

"Frankly speaking, we're behind on all our targets when it comes to workforce housing," he said. 

Stewart highlighted the effect the Squamish Nation's proposed development at the foot of the Burrard Bridge could have for renters, but said it was largely up to higher levels of government to provide the funds needed to build housing that could be affordable for all incomes.

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The City of Vancouver says it has issued more than 4,000 short-term rental licences in its bid to regulate the industry.

So far, the city says it has begun enforcement on 3,600 case files involving suspected illegal short-term rental operators.

The city says it has seen one of the highest licence compliance rates in North America, with an estimated 73 per cent of operators obtaining a licence.

It also says that more than 2,000 units have been delisted from short-term rental sites, and that in the last year it has issued more than 2,100 long-term rental licences, more than 80 per cent of them in individual condo units.

The city says its focus for next year will be on expanding strata partnerships and cracking down on commercial and fraudulent short-term rental operators.

It says people who make false declarations on their business licence application may be subject to prosecution.

The numbers come a day after short-term rental giant Airbnb announced that it had collected about $43 million in provincial sales tax (PST) and municipal and regional district tax (MRDT) in one year.

Nearly $34 million came from PST, which has been remitted to the provincial government, where it is to be used to fund affordable housing. The remaining $9.2 million of MRDT is allocated to B.C. municipalities to fund tourism outreach, $3.5 million of which will go to Tourism Vancouver.

On Wednesday, Vancouver city council voted to write to the provincial government to request a framework to share a portion of the PST revenue.

The City of Vancouver says it has also been working to form partnerships with stratas in order to prevent about 6,500 units in 18 buildings from becoming short-term rentals.

While our short-term rentals program is still new, we’re seeing it make a positive impact on housing in our city, said Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a media release.

But until our vacancy rate improves, short-term rentals should only be in a persons principal residence, and we will be reaching out to listing platforms and the province to ensure our regulations are followed.

Under the citys bylaw, short-term rental hosts can only rent out their principal residence or single rooms, and must display a valid permit number on their listing.