FAQs on Olympic accommodation “cash grab”

Despite last week’s media fuss about the City of Vancouver’s Olympic accommodation “cash grab,” which would require most homeowners to seek a $150 business licence to rent for terms of less than 30 days, I have only a single e-mail in protest. (The full report is here, item 10.)

Nonetheless, I offer this brief review of the key elements of the proposal to clear up any lingering confusion:

Q. Why is the city miring homeowners in this red tape?

A. Actually it is currently illegal to rent for less than 30 days unless you operate a hotel, bed and breakfast or single-room accommodation building. This relaxes the law and reduces red tape by eliminating the prohibition on short-term rentals. It will not override strata or co-op rules. Homeowners renting a single room to two people or fewer won’t require a licence at all.

Q. Why is the city requiring a business licence?

A. This is in line with current rules for people renting for more than 30 days. About 10,000 have taken out these licences. For these homeowners, the fee is $108. A higher fee is proposed here because the city cost of administration will be higher. This is intended to be revenue-neutral.

Q. Why bother?

A.  If you have a business licence, you will be briefed on the guidelines for safety and so forth. If your neighbours later complain, you will be covered.

Q. What problem is the city trying to solve?

A. Just four days ago, the IOC expressed concern about the shortage of rooms in the region. Relaxing current regulations will bring more rooms onstream, easing pressure on hotels, allowing some residents to benefit from the Games financially, and reducing the likelihood that residents in existing low-cost accommodation will be displaced.

Q. With some homeowners reported seeking as much as $1,500 a night, is the real cash grab happening at City Hall or in the community?

A. That’s a fair question. Probably those folks are just passionate about sharing in the excitement of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.