City of Vancouver ordered to disclose Airbnb data

We won! The City of Vancouver has been ordered to disclose the Airbnb licence database. This is a major victory for the residents of Vancouver adversely impacted by Airbnb operations in the city.

The City of Vancouver publishes business licences data for all businesses operating in Vancouver. But until now, the City of Vancouver has afforded preferential treatment to Airbnb business operators by hiding their licence information from the database.

When I submitted a freedom of information request to the City of Vancouver for that data in 2019, the City of Vancouver withheld the information citing privacy and security reasons.

I then submitted a complaint to the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. The initial investigator found that the City of Vancouver was not entitled to withhold the information under the grounds they have stated, but the City refused to budge.

The matter ended up going to a full inquiry. Just before Christmas last year, the OIPCBC adjudicator ruled in my favour, and ordered the City of Vancouver to disclose the information to me (Order F21-65).

Airbnb and the City of Vancouver deployed an army of lawyers to argue their case during the inquiry. I represented myself despite having no formal legal education. Airbnb is a billion dollar company. I live in a basement.

What I had, and Airbnb will never have, is the support of Vancouver’s tireless housing activists, who helped me argue my case during the inquiry. I want to thank every one of them who helped craft a winning argument.

We discovered through freedom of information requests that Airbnb had put us housing advocates under mass surveillance and supplied dossiers about us to the City of Vancouver. Instead of demanding that Airbnb cease and desist in their unethical and potentially illegal activities, the City of Vancouver used that data to blacklist us.

We persevered and persisted because we believe it’s repugnant that the City of Vancouver would side with a parasitic billion dollar company decimating the rental stock while bringing crime to our neighbourhoods.

We’re in the midst of a crushing housing crisis. Thousands are homeless on the street, while tens of thousands live in their vehicles or couchsurf with their friends. One in five families spend more than half their paycheque on rent. The Vancouver City Council needs to ban Airbnb completely in the city. The City of Vancouver should make cracking down on Airbnb a priority.