British Columbia

Airbnb taking 300 units out of Victoria's rental pool, council told

Airbnb rentals are taking hundreds of suites out of the rental housing pool, according to a report provided to Victoria's city council. But Vancouver consultant Jay Wollenberg advises city officials against immediate action to limit short term rentals.

Short-term rentals more than 1% of rental housing stock

Consultant Jay Wollenberg estimates Airbnb listings take about 300 units out of Victoria's rental housing market. (Airbnb)

Airbnb rentals take hundreds of suites out of the capital city's rental housing pool, according to a report provided to Victoria's city council Thursday.

But Jay Wollenberg, a consultant and adjunct professor with UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning, advised city officials against immediate action to limit short-term vacation rentals.

"I estimate there are about 300 units listed that could be considered to be full units that could otherwise be in the rental housing pool," Wollenberg said in his report.

He based his estimate on a review of Airbnb listings for entire suites or homes, excluding listings for spare bedrooms.

Small impact on rental stock

The 300 units would equal 1.1 per cent of the estimated 27,000 homes in Victoria's rental housing stock.

Wollenberg said if the suites and homes currently listed on Airbnb were turned into long-term rentals, it would ease the city's very tight vacancy rate slightly, which has hovered around 0.6 per cent.

However, he said, it would not make rents in the city any more affordable.

He added that the city has approved more than 500 units of new rental construction in the past year loss, more than offsetting the number diverted to Airbnb rentals.

Increased enforcement, licensing urged

While Wollenberg recommended against immediate action to restrict Airbnb and other short-term rentals, he urged the city to start actively enforcing the existing regulations. 

Jonathan Tinney, the City of Victoria's director of sustainable planning, told All Points West host Robyn Burns that increased enforcement and monitoring was what city staff recommended to council. 

A report by city staff recommended a push to increase licensing of Airbnb rentals. (Airbnb)

This was "primarily to encourage people who are operating legally to get business licenses," Tinney said.

"So that we could start to track them, find out where they are and learn about these different activities, which would then allow us to provide regulations that reflect the reality of the market here in Victoria." 

Short-term rentals are legal in 1,700 units in the downtown core under existing zoning.

Action postponed

 "A number of owners may have purchased their unit with the expectation that they would be able to do this," he said.

As well, short-term bed-and breakfast accommodation is allowed in single-family neighbourhoods.

City of Victoria councillors voted to put off any decision on dealing with the issue of Airbnb rentals until a workshop can be arranged to discuss it in detail within the next couple of months. 

With files from All Points West

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Airbnb diverting 300 Victoria rentals, council told