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Crack down on Airbnb in Yellowknife, say bed-and-breakfast owners

Frustrated bed and breakfast owners in Yellowknife say they want the city to regulate online sites like Airbnb that allow residents to offer up spare bedrooms for a night.

Bed and breakfast owners tell Municipal Services Committee to regulate room-sharing service

Faith Embleton says her bed-and-breakfast is losing business due to unlicensed residents posting rooms for rent on sites like Airbnb. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Frustrated bed and breakfast owners in Yellowknife say they want the city to regulate online sites like Airbnb that allow residents to offer up spare bedrooms for a night.

Faith Embleton spoke out against sites she called "unlicensed bed and breakfasts" at Monday's Municipal Services Committee Meeting. 

"It used to be in Yellowknife, it was a pretty even playing ground," Embleton said.

"In the quiet time you always had enough revenue coming in, you could pay your bills. Now that is no longer the case."

"When it's quiet, it's very quiet," she said.

Airbnb is one of many online sites that allow private residents to offer up accommodation for a night. People can find a place to stay through an online app.

But critics like Embleton say they are acting as unlicensed businesses. Residents who put up their rooms or homes do not have to have annual inspections or get a licence from the City of Yellowknife, Embleton said.

Yellowknife does not currently have a strategy for how companies like Airbnb are allowed to operate. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife lists fewer than 20 bed and breakfasts on its official tourism site, but a search of Airbnb in Yellowknife shows 72 properties available.

"Why on Earth do we pay for a business licence?" Embleton said. "Why are we following the rules? It's so easy to do something else."

Chamber of Commerce monitoring situation

Yellowknife's Chamber of Commerce doesn't support regulating Airbnb users, said Deneen Everett, the chamber's executive director. She described it as a "wait-and-see" approach.

"We've made a commitment to monitor the presence of Airbnb in Yellowknife and see how it impacts our members," Everett said.

"We're waiting for a precedent to be set in other Canadian communities and are just monitoring the situation."

Airbnb itself supports regulation and is "committed to working with citizens and municipal leaders across Canada to develop common sense, easy-to-follow rules," a company spokesman wrote in an email to CBC News. 

City administration will have more information on how it plans to deal with shared accommodations when it presents a report to council in the new year.  

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