Business in Vancouver

Airbnb signing bonus could eat into Vancouver's rental housing stock

Short-term rental company is offering Vancouver residents a C$250 (US$192) bonus to join by August 31

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 2:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 4:35pm

As the City of Vancouver examines the impact of short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, VRBO, OwnersDirect and Flipkey, Airbnb has started upping the ante by offering new hosts a C$250 (US$192) signing bonus.

The catch is that they have to sign up by August 31, live within 25 miles of downtown Vancouver and have a minimum booking value of C$100 (US$76.77) per night. The host must stay no later than September 30.

“Once you activate your new listing and host your first guest, we’ll send you a C$250 cash bonus,” Airbnb notes on its website.

Short-term rentals from companies such as Airbnb have been controversial because many see them as taking away housing that could be rented to locals. The rentals could also help home owners get around any empty-homes tax that the City of Vancouver enacts.

The BC government earlier this summer passed legislation to allow Vancouver to create such a tax. Mayor Gregor Robertson floated the idea that the tax be on homes that are vacant for 12 months.

Real estate watchers, such as Tom Davidoff, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, have panned the tax as ineffective largely because of the proliferation of short-term rental companies.

“You might as well call [any future Vancouver tax on empty homes] an Airbnb subsidy instead of a vacancy tax,” Davidoff said earlier this summer. “If I’ve got a place in Coal Harbour, I’ll just list the place for C$750 (US$575.80) a night, somebody will take it two nights a year and I’m not vacant, what is that? That’s crap.”

Airbnb hosts also do not collect a hotel tax, which is something that hotel operators are concerned with. 

The City of Vancouver earlier this summer contracted a third-party consulting firm to examine 10 platforms that provide short-term rentals in Vancouver.

The city said in a July news release that the intent of the examination is “to determine how short-term rentals are affecting the availability of rental housing for families and workers in Vancouver.”