My speech at the Public Hearing on regulating short-term rentals in Vancouver

My name is Rohana Rezel, here as an individual, and I’m speaking against this motion.

Airbnb’s Alex Dagg told you that “The vast majority of our hosts are everyday people and families sharing the extra space at their homes a few nights each month to earn modest supplemental income”

But out of curiosity, I went and checked the Inside Airbnb website to see if what Alex Dagg said was true. What I found was that 68% of all units were entire homes or apartments, 58% were rented for more than 60 days a year, and 36% were commercial operators.

I can only conclude, that either Airbnb’s statements were based on alternative facts or that Alex Dagg was bearing false witness. But why?

As I was in the lounge on Tuesday, waiting for my turn to speak, I talked to people who have been evicted by their landlords to make way for illegal Airbnb hotels. We know that this is an all too common occurrence in this city.

Entire apartment buildings are being turned into airbnb hotels displacing dozens of long term tenants at a time. We heard about the nightmare on Pender Street where Anoop Majithia’s Plan A Real Estate tried to throw scores of vulnerable renters out onto the streets to make way for an Airbnb hotel. Some victims of these Airbnb evictions are living in their cars. Many others have been forced onto the streets.

The City’s own studies, and research done by many others such as Karen Sawatzky, have conclusively proven that Airbnb continues to erode our city’s chronically inadequate rental stock.

Airbnb is currently illegal. Yet, we have 6,000-plus units listed right now in this city. And in comparison, we have under 1,000 long term rental vacancies. There are six times as many short term rentals as there are long term rental vacancies. So how can 6,000 people break the law with complete impunity?

Is the City incompetent or impotent? Or is our town being run by a bunch of venal politicians?

Think about it.

It took months for the city to shut down the illegal Airbnb hotel that the developer Onni was running. Onni’s parent company is a major Vision Vancouver donor.

Airbnb is a cancer that’s destroying communities. Destroying families. Destroying lives. It takes a special kind of a sociopath to vote to legalize a company that’s wreaking such havoc in this city and many other great cities around the world. If you have even a vestige of a conscience left, you would not vote for this by-law.

I support families who are “sharing the extra space at their homes a few nights each month”.

Fun fact: they can a run a perfectly legal bed and breakfast today under the existing bylaws with a simple B&B business licence. So, we don’t need this dog and pony show to legalize what’s unethical and immoral. Instead, I urge you to send this bylaw back and strengthen the existing bylaw so it does the following:

  1. Increase the fines for illegal short term rental operators to $20,000 per infractions as they do in some cities
  2. Make even advertising units on short term rental platforms without a B&B licence an infraction
  3. Create a full-time enforcement team funded by the increased fines
  4. Take Airbnb and other short term rental operators to court to extract identities of the violators
  5. Use what’s left over from the fines collected to support affordable housing programs

Airbnb and the political class are trying to frame this as a war between homeowners and renters. But it’s not.

One thing we learnt from the speakers who spoke in support of Airbnb is that many homeowners are forced to run hotels in their own homes because of the unafforbability crisis plaguing our region. Once again, the Vision Vancouver administration in the City, and the former BC Liberal government that ran the province, to the ground some might say, are responsible for this sorry state of affairs. The reason we are in this mess is because we have allowed international money launderers and tax evaders to speculate on our housing market, with near complete impunity.

If you really want to end this problem once and for all, stop treating housing as a commodity, and start recognizing housing as a human right.

Thank you