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'Airbnb vigilante' says her campaign against illegal rentals ignored by Vancouver officials

'Airbnb vigilante' says her campaign against illegal rentals ignored by Vancouver officials
From CBC - August 11, 2017

Marie Simmonds is fixated on ferreting out illegal short-term rentals in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood, knowing her detective work does little to stop the onslaught.

And the city seems to ignore her.

"I have become this Airbnb vigilante," said Simmonds, who is irked by brazen hosts offering rooms from between $150 to $592 per night in a city that is short on rental stock.

Short-term rentals under 30 days arenot legal in Vancouver, except for hotels or bed-and-breakfasts that are licensed.

A new McGill study says the bulk of the profit from the lucrative short-term rental industry is landing in the pockets of a few large-scale hosts. Andworld-wide, cities struggle to crack down or enforce strict bans.

The study looked at Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The study's lead author, David Wachsmuth, assistant professor in McGill's School of Urban Planning, saidcities need to require platforms such as Airbnb to enforce regulations to rein in a rental gold rush that's tying up thousands of potential long-term rental homes.

City of Vancouver staff admit they ca not follow up on many of the individual complaints, which city staff expect will double in number this year over last year's 144.

They have had more than 150 reports of illegal rentals so far this year.

"At this time it's full-on illegal," said Kathryn Holm, Vancouver's chief licensing inspector who saidthe city is in active discussions with Airbnb to find solutions.

According to the McGill study, in the past decade, the short-term rental business has exploded in Vancouver, where it grew from insignificant to an estimated 24,000 listingsearning $22 million this year.

A City of Vancouver data analysis, which took a snapshot in April, showed 6,000 active Vancouver listings on one day.

Meanwhile, a city report says Airbnb has become Vancouver's largest de facto hotel. In the past few years, Vancouver has scrambled to create controls.

For its part, Airbnbdownplayedthe report's conclusions.

In an email, spokesperson Lindsey Scully accused Wachsmuth of "manipulating" data and "misrepresenting" Airbnb hosts, who are 80 per cent "middle class Canadian families" renting in-home units to "earn a bit of additional income to help pay the bills."

'Airbnbvigilante'

Many complaints ignored

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