Jeff Nagel/Black Press
An Airbnb representative says the online booking platform welcomes regulation by B.C. cities to help control the exploding market for short-term vacation rentals and is prepared to collect and remit accommodation taxes.
There are approximately nine Sicamous properties registered with the private accommodation rental website and about 200 throughout the Shuswap/North Okanagan.
Public policy manager Alex Dagg made the comments Thursday to a packed Union of B.C. Municipalities forum on the contentious issue, where municipal and hospitality industry representatives on a panel outlined potential measures.
The common theme from panelists was that the phenomenon is here to stay but rapid growth of online bookings of vacation rentals will, if left unchecked, worsen an already dire rental housing market where workers and students increasingly can’t find places to live for the long term.
“We want to be good community partners,” Dagg said, noting Airbnb already collects and remits taxes in 200 U.S. cities. “We have no problem to do that here as well.”
She said applying existing eight per cent hotel room tax and additional municipal and regional district accommodation tax of up to three per cent would generate up to $2.5 million a year for the province, based on the 166,500 Airbnb bookings in B.C. in 2015 through 13,600 hosts.
Dagg suggested the province eliminate an exemption from those accommodation taxes that now exists for operators with fewer than four rooms, which excludes most current Airbnb hosts.
“We would be more than willing to comply,” she said. “And to then build in that municipal tax on our platform and collect and remit to the provincial government.”
The tidal wave of vacation rentals has already hit hard in more tourist-oriented. B.C. Hotel Association CEO James Chase urged cities to act quickly to set up any regulation scheme, noting bookings are being made now for next summer.
Chase recommended requiring all hosts to get business licences – no exceptions – adding the extra fees and the prospect of their income being more traceable by federal auditors will act as levers to push more vacation rentals back into the long-term rental housing market.