Calgary to consider tiered licences for Airbnbs

Alex Dagg with Airbnb says it's important city council craft rules that recognize the range of people hosting through Airbnb, from those who rent out a room during Stampede to those who operate multiple units all year.

New rules would address range of hosts, from commercial operators to temporary room rentals

Alex Dagg, the director of public policy for Airbnb Canada, says they are supportive of rule changes as long as they take into account the spectrum of hosts that use the platform. (CBC)

A Calgary council committee has recommended the city adopt a tiered business licence category to address short-term rentals like Airbnb.

City administration will have until the third quarter of 2019 to draft proposed changes. 

Alex Dagg, the director of public policy for Airbnb Canada, said the platform supports the steps Calgary council is taking. 

"So far I think there's quite a lot of support for what the city is trying to do," she said.

"What we're hearing is they want to have easy-to-follow rules, they're talking about an online registration system — those are all good and really help with compliance when they design simple and easy rules for people to follow."

Dagg says it's important council craft rules that recognize the range of people hosting through Airbnb, from those who rent out a room during Stampede, to those who operate multiple units all year. 

"The question is where you draw that line and how you define that," she said. 

Levy and competition

Dagg also said they'd like to be in a position where the provincial tourism levy is applied to Airbnb hosts and has met with the government to try and make that legislative change. 

The city also committed to advocate to the provincial government for the change. 

Peggy Athans, the executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association, is also supportive of the moves, but wants to make sure council considers the impact of commercial operators on Airbnb.

"We work with our partners to build the destination and market the destination and we want to have such a successful destination that we fill up every hotel room and we fill up every Airbnb unit in the city. That's not our issue at all," she said. 

"We are just wanting to have a level playing field with the commercial operators. We have no issue at all with true home sharing. It's really that percentage of the short-term rental market that is operating as basically an illegal hotel in a residential unit."

Airbnb super host Kevin Robinson said if the licensing scheme is kept reasonably affordable with a simple price, he believes people will sign on.

The new regulations would be for people renting more than 90 days a year, which concerns Robinson. He said it's easy to hit that mark while still only renting out of your home. 

For example, he said, there are likely many people in Calgary who informally rent to friends or family part-time, if they work away for weeks at a time, like in Fort McMurray.

"The house is just more safe when somebody's living there, and that may very quickly add up to 90 days and more per year," Robinson said.

The city would also launch a public education campaign following any changes to short-term rental rules. 

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