Airbnb offers $250 cash incentive to first-time hosts in Metro Vancouver
Some are afraid the bonus will make the affordability crisis worse while others see it opening the market
Airbnb is sweetening the deal offering cash incentives to new hosts considering opening their homes to the world.
Capitalizing on the highly competitive housing market, the company recently announced a $250 cash bonus to first-time hosts in Metro Vancouver and Toronto through an email campaign and website promotion.
Short-term rentals have come under fire in the city as the vacancy rate remains low, but local host Kyle MacDonald sees the incentive as a way to open up the market and bring the nightly prices down.
"I do think it will incentivize the appropriate use of Airbnb," said MacDonald.
"If everyone just got kicked out of their rentals and everyone was doing Airbnb then definitely there's a potential for the city to hollow out, but most people I know who do host Airbnbs do so casually."
Others are surprised and concerned the company is pushing for more short-term rental supply.
Desperate rental market
Justin Fung with the Vancouver-based group, "Housing Action for Local Taxpayers," says residents shouldn't be surprised, because the local real estate scene has become one of desperation.
"We're in the middle of a housing crisis, so Airbnb just kind of exacerbates a problem that's already there," said Fung.
UBC Housing Expert Tom Davidoff agrees Airbnb owners are often able to outbid locals for real estate.
"We've got to find a way so that somebody who invests in real estate but doesn't live and work here — for example, an Airbnb host — pays more property tax, and people who live and work here pay less income and sales tax."
But MacDonald doesn't see a cash incentive making the problem any worse than it is.
"I don't think the $250 would lead to any people kicking out a long-term renter to turn it into a short-term rental operation," he said.
"It's one of the greatest tools a homeowner has … It's a great way to create wealth in the City of Vancouver."
Hosts in Vancouver who sign up and complete a booking by Sept. 30 are eligible for the bonus.