Airbnb violating MoU with City of Vancouver by not deactivating listings without licences

Update 6-Sep-2018:

After I published my blog post, some of the hosts have obtained licences and Airbnb has deactivated the remaining listings.

Airbnb is required to deactivate listings that don’t have a licence and keep them deactivated until such time the hosts get licences for them. But my Airbnb data scanner has picked up at least six listings that popped up today without a licence.

This is a clear violation of Section 1.3 of the Memorandum of Understanding Airbnb signed with the City, which states

1.3 For Hosts that have listed or list an STRA with Airbnb prior to April 18, 2018, Airbnb will give such Hosts until August 31, 2018 to input a STRA Licence Number. Thereafter, Airbnb will deactivate the listings of such Hosts from its platform until such time that a Host inputs a STRA Licence Number.

Airbnb is violating an MoU which is extremely favourable to the company. This just goes to show how little respect these predatory corporations have for the City of Vancouver.

To meaningfully protect our long term rental market from being decimated by Airbnb and other short term accommodation platforms, we must take the following steps:

  1. Introduce licence auto-verification, so, we can nip unlicensed units and licence cheats in the bud
  2. Introduce a tough new bylaw and agreements that hold platforms accountable for the hosts’ actions
  3. Make Airbnb fines lienable, so that the city can place liens against egregious violators who refuse to pay the fines

 

I believe Vancouver should take care of those who take care of our city and our citizens. I dream of a place where those who contribute to our communities are able to afford to live in the city. I’m running for city councillor to see that dream come true. Please help me by donating and volunteering to my campaign.

Landbanking hurting housing affordability in Vancouver

The numbered company 1161137 B. C. LTD bought 7239 Oak Street in May 2015 for $1.9M. The company held onto the land the city upzoned the neighbourhood under the Cambie Corridor Project. Once that was done, they assembled it with another nearby property, and have relisted the properties at $5.7M each.

This is just one example of landbanking, where speculators hoard large swathes of land, wait for a the city to increase density, and sell it to developers while making exhorbitant profits. Small local developers who want to build homes for working Vancouverites simply cannot afford to pay these sky high prices. The only people who can, are the likes of Westbank, Onni, Concord Pacific and Aquilini, who then build luxury condos that are meant as safety deposit boxes in the sky for the global rich.

Often the landbankers use corporations, sometimes numbered corporations, to do their landbanking. I analyzed homes that came for sale over the course of the last 12 months, and found at least 81 instances of corporations buying land and selling them within three years.

AddressOwnerList PriceList DateDate BoughtPrice BoughtYear Built
4777 2ND AVE W VANCOUVERJoyful Holdings Ltd$18,880,00012/03/201812/12/2017$14,128,0001930
1880 MARINE DR SW VANCOUVERGLASENBRIDGE INVESTMENTS LTD$14,800,00008/01/201808/03/2015$8,890,0002003
7843 CAMBIE ST VANCOUVERWDG INVESTMENT LTD.$12,000,00031/01/201821/06/2017$7,238,0001959
5676 ASH ST VANCOUVERCEETU ASH 5676 DEVELOPMENT (BT) LTD$10,000,00018/06/201803/02/2017$5,400,0001953
5530 BAILLIE ST VANCOUVERCeetu 5530 Baillie Development (BT) Ltd.$7,500,00019/06/201808/05/2017$5,000,0001961
1188 57TH AVE W VANCOUVER1188 ENTERPRISES LTD.$6,980,00028/08/201802/03/2016$3,760,0002008
1685 NELSON ST VANCOUVER1685 NELSON STREET HOLDINGS INC.$6,788,00016/02/201815/06/2017$4,280,0001905
506 63RD AVE W VANCOUVER1163755 BC LTD$6,298,00001/06/201805/02/2016$2,838,0001992
6388 MARGUERITE ST VANCOUVERGOLDEN MUSTANG HOLDING CORP.$6,158,00011/06/201821/05/2015$4,330,0001926
5909 ATHLONE ST VANCOUVERALIIA DEVELOPMENTS LTD$5,999,99926/06/201821/09/2015$4,185,0001931
1860 BARCLAY ST VANCOUVERWEST END PROPERTIES LTD.$5,980,00023/03/201809/03/2016$3,100,0001901
6618 ASH ST VANCOUVERMODERN GREEN TECHNOLOGY LTD.$5,900,00020/03/201816/06/2015$3,450,0002011
7239 OAK ST VANCOUVER1161137 B. C. LTD.,$5,680,00007/08/201819/05/2015$1,875,0001944
1075 DOUGLAS CRES VANCOUVER1063263 B.C. LTD., INC.NO. BC1063263$5,680,00010/05/201805/01/2016$3,250,0001910
2659 35TH AVE W VANCOUVERCANADA JENO ENTERPRISES LTD.$5,180,00018/01/201829/02/2016$4,388,0001915
1841 MARINE DR SE VANCOUVER1096238 B.C. LTD.$4,990,00022/11/201729/09/2016$1,777,0001912
3531 37TH AVE W VANCOUVERK-BROS DEVELOPMENTS CORPORATION$4,880,00029/01/201814/12/2015$4,350,0001924
1405 40TH AVE W VANCOUVERQINGHUI HOLDINGS LTD.$4,690,00016/08/201820/04/2016$4,300,0001926
2439 EDDINGTON DR VANCOUVER2439 EDDINGTON HOLDINGS LTD.$4,628,00027/08/201819/01/2016$3,379,0001989
4689 MACKENZIE ST VANCOUVER1079931 B.C. LTD., INC.NO. BC1079931$4,580,00020/09/201728/09/2017$4,450,0002007
6069 CARTIER ST VANCOUVER1039181 BC LTD$4,528,00007/02/201816/06/2015$3,100,0001937
3884 26TH AVE W VANCOUVERALTAS GLOBAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT INC.$4,500,00001/03/201826/06/2016$3,900,0001925
2926 35TH AVE W VANCOUVERSONA DEVELOPMENT LTD$4,498,00009/02/201821/01/2016$3,800,0001988
3489 PUGET DR VANCOUVER1076872 B.C. LTD.$4,380,00030/10/201703/05/2016$3,860,0001952
2628 MARINE DR SW VANCOUVER1064867 BC LTD$4,288,00012/03/201823/03/2016$3,300,0001950
565 50TH AVE W VANCOUVER1145891 B.C. LTD., INC. NO. BC$4,280,00004/06/201805/01/2016$3,250,0001958
2706 2ND AVE W VANCOUVERCHUNGHUA INVESTMENT (CANADA) CO LTD$4,190,00012/09/201716/11/2016$3,800,0001913
3887 14TH AVE W VANCOUVER1164167 B.C. LTD$4,160,00014/08/201801/06/2015$3,200,0001927
4626 12TH AVE W VANCOUVERCHUNGHWA INVESTMENT (CANADA) CO. LTD.$4,150,00019/01/201820/12/2016$3,880,0001935
1739 52ND AVE W VANCOUVERCHANG CHENG INVESTMENT LTD$3,588,00024/01/201825/05/2015$2,468,0002004
8375 FRENCH ST VANCOUVER1079098 BC LTD$3,500,00022/06/201812/04/2016$2,220,0001947
3594 38TH AVE W VANCOUVERKANDA HOLDINGS LTD$3,488,00019/01/201808/08/2017$2,900,0001944
3536 1ST AVE W VANCOUVER8828 Holdings Ltd$3,339,00007/09/201717/09/2017$3,250,0001912
291 63RD AVE W VANCOUVERNEW TRADITION CONSTRUCTION LTD.$2,998,90001/03/201828/10/2016$2,010,0001959
4624 15TH AVE W VANCOUVERSEASKY HOLDING LTD, INC NO BC1029992$2,998,00006/02/201829/02/2016$2,850,0001944
4107 12TH AVE W VANCOUVERCIS HOMES LTD.$2,988,00010/10/201708/03/2017$2,700,0001920
2796 21ST AVE W VANCOUVERM LALL PROPERTIES LTD. INC. NO. BC 1028006$2,838,00019/02/201816/06/2016$2,598,0001940
2040 PANDORA ST VANCOUVER1074608 B.C. LTD.,$2,800,00020/09/201705/05/2016$2,000,0001913
2054 PANDORA ST VANCOUVER1074608 B.C. LTD.,$2,800,00020/09/201705/05/2016$2,000,0001912
2867 19TH AVE W VANCOUVERNew Tradition Construction LTD$2,699,90008/02/201829/06/2017$2,412,0001944
1370 10TH AVE E VANCOUVER1071932 B.C. LTD.$2,699,00029/03/201825/04/2016$1,750,0001910
292 63RD AVE W VANCOUVERRealution Investments Corp.$2,682,58009/07/201816/06/2015$1,650,0001994
3656 BLENHEIM ST VANCOUVERTakara Investments Ltd.$2,680,00005/04/201816/05/2016$2,380,0001928
1737 2ND AVE E VANCOUVER1890310 Ontario Inc.$2,650,00020/11/201712/01/2015$1,718,0001910
4586 8TH AVE W VANCOUVER1054618 B.C. LTD$2,550,00030/01/201825/11/2015$2,100,0001987
1826 12TH AVE W VANCOUVER1047469 BC LTD$2,499,90027/04/201824/03/2015$1,932,0001922
3077 16TH AVE W VANCOUVERRPQG HOLDINGS LTD.$2,480,00002/04/201808/12/2016$1,895,0001947
1578 58TH AVE E VANCOUVER1086844 B.C. LTD.$2,398,00007/02/201823/08/2016$1,650,0001954
266 21ST AVE E VANCOUVERHasson Holdings Inc$2,398,00020/11/201729/02/2016$2,265,0001928
2152 PARKER ST VANCOUVERHORST DAMMHOLZ REALTY LTD., INC. NO.$2,288,88801/02/201818/05/2017$1,580,0001982
2506 TRINITY ST VANCOUVERMARMAN DEVELOPMENTS LTD$2,275,00007/09/201702/03/2015$1,333,0001999
1275 24TH AVE E VANCOUVER1108940 BC Ltd. & Hucha Holdings Inc.$2,198,00023/04/201812/05/2016$1,560,0001926
6296 EAGLES DR VANCOUVERPARKHEIGHTS ENTERPRISES LTD$2,188,00005/10/201720/12/2017$2,150,0002007
845 17TH AVE W VANCOUVER1040394 B.C. LTD.$2,170,00020/03/201820/07/2015$1,767,0001944
2806 ETON ST VANCOUVERMARMAN DEVELOPMENTS LTD.$2,080,00004/06/201822/01/2016$2,000,0001951
2792 KITCHENER ST VANCOUVER1009503 B.C. LTD$1,988,00012/06/201822/07/2015$1,272,0001987
6108 KNIGHT ST VANCOUVERHuynh Holdings Inc.$1,988,00028/01/201806/03/2017$1,420,0001967
3369 NANAIMO ST VANCOUVERVLK HOLDINGD INC$1,899,00006/08/201822/03/2016$1,715,0001948
6708 BROOKS ST VANCOUVER6708 BROOKS STREET HOLDING INC$1,799,00005/02/201831/03/2017$1,600,0001958
2020 6TH AVE E VANCOUVER1126254 B.C. LTD.$1,798,00018/06/201813/05/2017$1,550,0001930
527 28TH AVE E VANCOUVERHASSON HOLDING INC.$1,798,00020/11/201702/05/2015$1,300,0001956
1151 UNION ST VANCOUVERUnion Street Investments Ltd$1,789,00022/05/201812/05/2015$810,0001905
1821 UPLAND DR VANCOUVERSONA DEVELOPMENT LTD.$1,788,00012/03/201810/05/2017$1,700,0001950
775 39TH AVE E VANCOUVER39TH ST PROPERTIES LTD., INC.NO. BC1073714$1,749,00019/09/201702/03/2016$1,635,0001986
1910 19TH AVE E VANCOUVERHomeward Bound Park View Dev. Inc$1,699,00018/03/201806/10/2016$1,359,0001923
6975 VIVIAN ST VANCOUVERCHRISTA VINA INVESTMENT LTD.$1,688,00030/04/201806/04/2016$1,645,0001957
1249 11TH AVE E VANCOUVERCAMBRIDGE MORTGAGE INVESTMENT CORP$1,550,00010/10/201718/12/2017$1,420,0001910
1969 8TH AVE E VANCOUVER1041540 BC LTD.$1,549,00027/09/201717/01/2018$1,528,1221930
1372 49TH AVE E VANCOUVERKINGDOM INVESTMENTS INC.$1,498,00005/06/201810/09/2017$1,307,0001946
305 40TH AVE E VANCOUVER11162017 BC LTD$1,498,00028/11/201729/06/2017$1,300,0001947
695 12TH AVE E VANCOUVERQuantum One Investments INC$1,450,00026/02/201823/03/2017$1,030,0001950
2712 PANDORA ST VANCOUVERTAYVA INVESTMENTS INC$1,449,00020/11/201719/05/2016$1,295,0001908
4539 BEATRICE ST VANCOUVERHUYNH HOLDINGS INC.$1,440,00006/10/201706/10/2017$1,440,0001910
2052 49TH AVE E VANCOUVERBIRING BROTHERS CONSTRUCTION LTD.$1,399,00007/05/201802/05/2017$1,320,0001927
1022 ODLUM DR VANCOUVER1071251 BC LTD$1,398,00017/04/201804/04/2016$980,0001906
2771 MANITOBA ST VANCOUVER1099481 BC LTD INC.$1,379,90022/06/201805/04/2017$1,007,0001996
3658 TURNER ST VANCOUVERFOUR SEASONS NAILS & SPA LTD$1,369,00031/08/201830/03/2016$1,230,0001926
765 39TH AVE E VANCOUVER0971933 BC LTD$1,350,00008/08/201807/04/2016$1,249,0001950
811 12TH AVE E VANCOUVERA Q HOLDINGS LTD.$1,349,90009/07/201805/05/2015$750,0001936
3406 MONS DR VANCOUVER2781 Capital Inc.$1,300,00030/10/201707/05/2016$1,400,0001948
2059 CHARLES ST VANCOUVERCKL INVESTMENTS LTD$1,268,80025/09/201728/01/2017$940,0001949
3650 GEORGIA ST E VANCOUVERG-HO HOLDINGS LTD, INC NO BC1107764$1,249,00026/01/201825/07/2017$980,0001934

Joyful Holdings, the company at the top of my list, belongs to a Hong Kong property tycoon known as the “King of Shell Companies,” whose name appears in the Offshore Leaks database of tax haven clients1)https://thinkpol.ca/2018/03/13/hong-kong-tycoon-linked-offshore-tax-havens-flipping-18m-vancouver-house-shell-company/. Vision Vancouver donor2)https://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SIGSearchResults.aspx?Contributor=ceetu&EndorsedSK=0&Endorsed=(ALL)&EventSK=0&EventAlias=(ALL)&FilerTypeSK=0&FilerType=(ALL)&Class=0&OfficeSK=0&Office=(ALL)&JurisdictionTypeSK=0&JurisdictionType=(ALL)&JurisdictionSK=0&Jurisdiction=(ALL)&FilerSK=0&Filer=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay= Ceetu appears twice on the list.

We need stop landbankers from artificially driving up land prices, and then free up the land they’re holding onto to build more affordable housing. The city needs to work with the province to introduce a landbanking tax that makes landbanking an unprofitable venture.

I believe Vancouver should take care of those who take care of our city and our citizens. I dream of a place where those who contribute to our communities are able to afford to live in the city. I’m running for city councillor to see that dream come true. Please help me by donating and volunteering to my campaign.

References   [ + ]

1. https://thinkpol.ca/2018/03/13/hong-kong-tycoon-linked-offshore-tax-havens-flipping-18m-vancouver-house-shell-company/
2. https://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SIGSearchResults.aspx?Contributor=ceetu&EndorsedSK=0&Endorsed=(ALL)&EventSK=0&EventAlias=(ALL)&FilerTypeSK=0&FilerType=(ALL)&Class=0&OfficeSK=0&Office=(ALL)&JurisdictionTypeSK=0&JurisdictionType=(ALL)&JurisdictionSK=0&Jurisdiction=(ALL)&FilerSK=0&Filer=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

Only 5% of Vancouver Airbnb listings deactivated

 

City of Vancouver’s short term accommodation bylaw fully came into force today. There was much talk of “2,000” Airbnb units being deactivated. But did it really happen?

 

It appears that Airbnb has deactivated approximately 5% of the listings that were active on August 31.

 

I took a random sample 832 of City of Vancouver hosts on Airbnb August 31 between 4pm and 6pm Pacific Time.

 

218 out of the 832 (27%) of them were without licences and facing deactivation. I ran a follow up today between 1pm and 2pm. Here’s what I found

 

Table1: What happened to the listings without licenses on Aug 31

New State Number Percentage
Deactivated 45 21%
Converted 30+ Days 163 75%
Licence obtained last minute 10 5%
Total 218 100%

 

That means approximately 5% of Airbnb listings that were active in my sample have been delisted. If we go by Jens von Bergmann’s figure of 4,700 total listings1)https://doodles.mountainmath.ca/blog/2018/08/21/airbnb-and-str-licences/, that works out to about 250 listings being taken off the platform.

 

But the number of people who are cheating the system far exceed the number of listings yanked from the platform. I’m currently collecting data post-purge, and here’s what I have found with my fresh sample of 1,634 listings collected so far today.

 

Table 2: Summary of problems with licences

 

Status Count Percentage
Licence used multiple times 459 28%
“Exempt” but less than 30 nights 73 4%
Obviously fake 17 1%
Not found in CoV database 152 9%
Valid 933 57%
Total 1634 100%

 

459  listings, or 28%, share a licence with one or more other listings. This means that Airbnb and City have done nothing to crackdown on commercial operators.

 

Licences for 152, or 9%, did not appear in the City of Vancouver business license database.

 

73 out of the  832 listings in my sample, or 4%, claimed to be “Exempt” even though they were for less than 30 days. Further 17 listings, or 1%, had obviously fake license numbers such as 00-0000. This means 11% of the listings are either fake or are claiming to be exempt when they probably aren’t.

 

In summary, the “great purge” did not happen. Even amongst the listings with licences, 43% are problematic.

 

A lot of these problems can be solved by introducing license auto-verification2)https://rezel.ca/2018/06/automated-short-term-rental-accommodation-licence-integrity-checking-system-astralics/.

Data

I’m happy to share my SQL database if anyone wants to play around with it. Just get in touch with me.

Bonus

Here’s a nify two-liner to extract City of Vancouver short term rental licences from the Open Data portal Json file.

import json
stral = [f['properties']['LicenceNumber'] for f in json.load(open("/path/to/Politics/business_licences.json"))['features'] if f['properties']["BusinessType"] is not None and 'Short-Term Rental' in f['properties']["BusinessType"]]

References   [ + ]

1. https://doodles.mountainmath.ca/blog/2018/08/21/airbnb-and-str-licences/
2. https://rezel.ca/2018/06/automated-short-term-rental-accommodation-licence-integrity-checking-system-astralics/

Wikiwashing Westbank: Who’s editing developer Ian Gillespie’s Wiki page?

Someone’s been deleting sections of Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie’s Wikipedia page1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Gillespie_(developer). Gillespie owns Westbank of the “if the Chinese market doesn’t want it, I have no interest in it” fame.

So who’s Wikiwashing Gillespie’s page?

Wikipedia edits leave behind an audit trail. In this case, we know the person who edited Gillespie’s page had the IP address 207.219.254.1322)https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ian_Gillespie_%28developer%29&type=revision&diff=850001074&oldid=846908619.

Let’s go and ask American Registry for Internet Numbers(ARIN)3)https://whois.arin.net/rest/net/NET-207-219-254-128-1/pft?s=207.219.254.132 who owns 207.219.254.132.

A quick Google search tells me that “180 University Hotel Limited Partnership”4)https://opengovca.com/toronto-business/B71-4293651 is the company which operates, wait for it, Westbank’s Shangri-La5)http://westbankcorp.com/shangri-la-toronto in Toronto, which happens to be at, 180 University Avenue.

Someone at Westbank’s Shangri-La is Wikiwashing Ian Gillespie’s page.

References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Gillespie_(developer)
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ian_Gillespie_%28developer%29&type=revision&diff=850001074&oldid=846908619
3. https://whois.arin.net/rest/net/NET-207-219-254-128-1/pft?s=207.219.254.132
4. https://opengovca.com/toronto-business/B71-4293651
5. http://westbankcorp.com/shangri-la-toronto

Housing went from affordable to extremely unaffordable under Vision Vancouver

2008 2018
Median Houshold Income $52,000.00 $70,000.00
Median 2-Bedroom rent $1,285.00 $2,612.00
Rent as a % of Income 29.65% 44.78%

When Vision Vancouver came to power in 2008, the median income in Vancouver was $52K1)Extrapolated from https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2018-housing-vancouver-annual-progress-report-and-data-book.pdf, while the rent for a two bedroom apartment was around $1,285 per month2)http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/ApartmentAverageRentsTwoBedroom.pdf, or 30 per cent of the income would be going towards rent.

After a decade under Vision Vancouver rule, the median income in Vancouver has increased by about a third to $70K3)Extrapolated from https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2018-housing-vancouver-annual-progress-report-and-data-book.pdf, but rents have doubled to $2,612 per month4)http://quantitativerhetoric.com/monthly-rental-report-june-2018.html, or 45 per cent of the income would be required to pay rent.

30 per cent is considered the upper limit of affordability in Canada5)https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/developing-and-renovating/develop-new-affordable-housing/programs-and-information/about-affordable-housing-in-canada, meaning that when Vision Vancouver first came to power, at least rental housing was still affordable.

The percentage of a household’s income going towards rent has increase by 50% under Vision Vancouver, making housing extremely unaffordable to middle class income earners.

Vision came to power promising to end homelessness and build affordable housing6)https://cityhallwatch.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/vision-vancouver-platform-2008-election.pdf. Vision has failed on both counts.

I’m running for City Council. Please donate help me win the City Hall back.

References   [ + ]

1, 3. Extrapolated from https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2018-housing-vancouver-annual-progress-report-and-data-book.pdf
2. http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/ApartmentAverageRentsTwoBedroom.pdf
4. http://quantitativerhetoric.com/monthly-rental-report-june-2018.html
5. https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/developing-and-renovating/develop-new-affordable-housing/programs-and-information/about-affordable-housing-in-canada
6. https://cityhallwatch.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/vision-vancouver-platform-2008-election.pdf

I’m running for Vancouver City Council


I hear from my fellow Vancouverites everyday about how they’re being thrown out onto the streets to make way for luxury condos that remain empty as safety deposit boxes in the sky. I hear from friends and neighbours about being renovicted as their landlords turned entire rental towers into illegal Airbnb hotels.

Vancouverites are fed up with a City Hall that kneels prostrate before the greedy few who profit off the citizen’s misery.

Developers like Westbank are brazenly yelling to the world “Vancouver’s becoming a safety deposit box for the global rich!” as a sales pitch with no fear of consequences.

Why would Westbank fear any consequences?

After all, Westbank’s owner Ian Gillespie is Mayor Gregor Robertson’s buddy and a Vision Vancouver bankroller.

Gillespie’s correct. Vancouver is becoming one giant resort for the global rich to gamble with our homes as their chips. Vancouver is also becoming a giant washing machine to launder the proceeds of transnational crime.

As the raging opioid crisis kills thousands of our citizens every year, the fentanyl dealers are making a killing speculating on our homes.

I have had privilege of mentoring promising young students at our universities and colleges. But many are forced to leave Vancouver upon graduation, forcing them away from where they were born and raised and away from their families. The salaries in Vancouver, even in the tech sector, are among the lowest in Canada. The cost of housing – whether you seek to buy or rent – is among the highest. Our citizens who contribute to the city while paying for taxes that pay for all the great public goods – I’m talking about our teachers, nurses, our friends in the trades and pretty much every other worker – are struggling to make ends meet.

The exodus of talent and the hollowing out of our neighbourhoods mean that local businesses are unable to stay afloat. The boarded up storefronts that line once busy thoroughfares in Vancouver seem straight out of a set of a post-apocalyptic dystopian movie.

And as local businesses are shutting shop, multinational chains are taking their place. Instead of hiring locals and paying them a living wage, these large corporations are importing indentured labour under the highly exploitative temporary foreign worker program.

What saddens me the most is that, I know Vancouver has the potential to be a global hub of commerce, innovation, science and art. Yet, we have now become world famous for the “Vancouver model” of money laundering.

The real estate industry – I’m talking about the developers, marketeers and realtors – have been the greatest beneficiaries of the fentanyl-fuelled housing crisis. The industry has poured millions of dollars into the coffers of both Vision Vancouver and NPA. In turn, the mayor and the council have stubbornly refused to take any meaningful action to stop our beloved city turning into a laundromat for all the world’s dirty money.

I, along with scores of other housing advocates, have spent countless hours presenting to City of Vancouver simple common sense solution to address the issues such as Airbnb licence abuse and presale flipping. But we feel that we’re hitting a brick wall at every turn. It’s blatantly obvious that the City Hall under Vision Vancouver leadership is protecting the interests of transnational criminals and the real estate industry instead of promoting the interests of the citizens.

It’s said that change must come from within. That’s why I’m running for Vancouver City Council at the upcoming elections with David Chen and the ProVancouver team.

When I’m elected, here are the five motions that I will table at Vancouver City Council within the first 100 days.

Motion 1: All future condominium pre-sales will be restricted to just local income taxpayers, by adding a local income taxpayer only condition to all projects approved by the council.

Motion 2: Completely ban on Airbnb, until such time the company learns the meaning of corporate citizenship and agrees to a new memorandum of understanding which ensures platform accountability.

Motion 3: Establish a startup accelerator which will finance and nurture young innovators, thereby enabling the city to be partners in their success.

Motion 4: Vancouver will set up a city-wide job seeker database and work with Service Canada to ensure that when businesses apply for temporary foreign worker permits, they’ll be matched with a qualified local worker first.

Motion 5: Establish a special Vancouver Police Department task force to investigate crime in the real estate industry and bring the perpetrators, who are currently acting with absolute impunity, to justice.

Dear friends, for too long we have seen successive municipal governments gut the heart and soul of our city by allowing proceeds of transnational crime to chase away our honest hardworking citizens. Our politicians are gleefully lining their pockets by betraying the ones who elected them, while promoting the interests of the industry that bankrolls them.

It’s time we said “Enough!”. It’s time to rise up and reclaim our City Hall, so that once again, it can serve the interests of the citizens instead of pandering to the whims of a greedy few.

The battle for Vancouver will be not be a walk in Stanley Park. The cancer of cronyism has metastasized in every organ of city government. But we’re Vancouverites. We’re resolute. We’re tenacious. We’re defiant in the face of even the greatest adversity.

We shall take back the City Hall and rebuild Vancouver as a city where innovation and hard work is rewarded, where families can thrive, and our bright young minds can fulfil their true potential.

Dare to dream, my friends, dare to dream of a free and prosperous Vancouver known world over as a great city shining bright on Canada’s western shores as a beacon of integrity in world riddled with corruption and greed.

And we shall not give up until every Vancouverite is liberated from the clutches of these transnational criminals who’ve laid siege on our city. The sounds of children’s laughter will once again ring through our playgrounds.

Thank you

Please donate whatever you can help us win the City Hall back

Local Income Taxpayers Only Pre-Sales (LITOPS)

My speech at the City of Vancouver Public Hearing on rezoning applications for a condo project where I asked the Vancouver City Council to limit pre-sales to local income taxpayers.

Your council has been approving rezoning applications, just like the one before us, at a breakneck rate. Tens of thousands of new homes have been built and many more thousands are being built, yet, the local income taxpayers continue to be priced out of the local market.

Perhaps you are not familiar with who the local taxpayers are and why we matter.

We are your teachers, nurses, construction workers, police officers, software engineers and every other worker and small business owner contributes to make Vancouver a wonderful place for us, our families, and our neighbours. At the same time, we pay taxes to fund all the great public services we enjoy: schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, our emergency services, and every other service that makes our city such a desirable place to live in.

The median household income in City of Vancouver is 67K1)2017 estimate based on City of Vancouver data from 2015 http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2017-09-29-city-of-vancouver-2016-census-income-data-release.pdf. The median house price in the City of Vancouver is 1.2M2)http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-2018-budget.pdf. At 18 times the median income, housing in Vancouver is now well out of reach of the local income taxpayer.

What’s causing this disconnect between local incomes and local house prices?

To find the answer, you only need to ask Mayor Robertson’s buddy and bankroller Ian Gillespie.

“Vancouver has become a safety deposit box for the global rich,” screams the headline of Westbank’s marketing article on its China website3)Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy – a website that for a while was off limits to Canadians.

What Westbank is brazenly using as a marketing pitch is what experts have been telling us for decades: the world’s wealthy treat our housing market as a stock market, and our homes as commodities for speculation. And much of this money is dirty. Proceeds of transnational crime are also parked and laundered through our housing market.

The recent measures introduced to calm the housing market such as foreign buyer tax and speculation tax has driven speculators away from flipping existing homes to flipping pre-sales, as the new measures do not apply to pre-sales.

That’s where local income taxpayers only pre-sales policy comes in. By restricting all pre-sales to local income taxpayers who wish to occupy them, we can cut out toxic demand that’s making it impossible for our local income taxpayers to afford housing in Vancouver.

How it works

Every pre-sale buyer would be required to swear an affidavit confirming that they will:
a) using income that has been taxed locally to purchase the property
b) upon completion, will occupy the property as their primary residence

Strict enforcement and heavy fines will ensure compliance.

What I’m proposing is not too different to what your council has put forward as a “locals first” policy. Hawaii has had an “owner occupant” law since 1980.

Why did Hawaii promulgate such a law? In the words of Hawaii’s real estate commission’s chairperson4)http://files.hawaii.gov/dcca/reb/real_ed/re_bull2/re_bull_01_05/bull1305.pdf:

“Hawaii’s Owner-Occupant Law was promulgated in 1980 by our legislature in response to growing public concern at what was then viewed as rampant speculation by investors in the condominium presale market. Essentially, developers were offering investor buyers first priority to purchase units in their projects, resulting in resale prices unaffordable for residential buyers.”

Sounds familiar?

Mayor and council, under your watch rampant toxic speculation has distorted the market, displacing our families and destroying our communities. The real estate industry, and the politicians who are in the industry’s payroll, and the financial industry who bankroll them, are raking in obscene profits at the expense working Vancouverites.

But it’s not too late to rescue our city. By imposing “local income taxpayers only” as a condition for passing rezoning applications such as the one in front of you today, you can reconnect local housing prices to local incomes.

We can reclaim Vancouver from the transnational criminals who hold sway over our city. All we need is our leadership to look after the interests of the local citizens ahead of the interests of the real estate industry.

Thank you.

[Photo Credit: Tyler Ingram]

References   [ + ]

1. 2017 estimate based on City of Vancouver data from 2015 http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2017-09-29-city-of-vancouver-2016-census-income-data-release.pdf
2. http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-2018-budget.pdf
3. Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy
4. http://files.hawaii.gov/dcca/reb/real_ed/re_bull2/re_bull_01_05/bull1305.pdf

Fentanyl/Real Estate Cycle

  1. Fentanyl dealers launder their profits through Vancouver’s real estate market1)https://globalnews.ca/news/4149818/vancouver-cautionary-tale-money-laundering-drugs/
  2. The influx of proceeds of transnational crime causes Vancouver’s home prices to soar causing a frenzy of speculation.
  3. This toxic demand then leads to eviction and homelessness.
  4. Eviction and homeless has been linked to increases in addiction2)William Damon, Ryan McNeil, M -J Milloy, Ekaterina Nosova, Thomas Kerr, Kanna Hayashi; Residential eviction predicts initiation of or relapse into crystal methamphetamine use among people who inject drugs: a prospective cohort study, Journal of Public Health, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx187.
  5. The increase in addiction then leads to increase in fentanyl sales
  6. The increase in sales leads to large profits to the dealers

References   [ + ]

1. https://globalnews.ca/news/4149818/vancouver-cautionary-tale-money-laundering-drugs/
2. William Damon, Ryan McNeil, M -J Milloy, Ekaterina Nosova, Thomas Kerr, Kanna Hayashi; Residential eviction predicts initiation of or relapse into crystal methamphetamine use among people who inject drugs: a prospective cohort study, Journal of Public Health, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx187

Giving Ian Gillespie tax dollars to fix the housing crisis would be like giving a fentanyl dealer public money to buy naloxone kits to sell back to his clients

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister,

Please don’t hand over $14B of our tax dollars to Westbank’s Ian Gillespie

I’m dismayed and distressed to hear that the Government of Canada is considering handing $14 billion in taxpayer dollars to real estate developer Ian Gillespie and his company Westbank to build “affordable housing” through an outfit called Creative Housing. Giving Ian Gillespie tax dollars to fix the housing crisis would be like giving a fentanyl dealer public money to buy naloxone kits to sell back to his clients.

I urge you not to pour a supertanker load of salt in the deep wounds Mr. Gillespie has inflicted on Vancouverites by even giving a penny of our hard earned tax money to him.

If you’ve forgotten what Mr. Gillespie, your friend and fundraiser, has done to earn the dubious distinction as being an architect of the housing crisis, let me jog your memory:

  1. Westbank pitches Vancouver’s hot real estate market to buyers in China with the “Vancouver’s becoming a safety deposit box for the global rich!” as the selling point. “In recent years, the boom in Vancouver’s properties has attracted the global rich,” Westbank’s tells the world. “It took only two years for Vancouver’s housing prices to double.”1)Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy
  2. Westbank has openly declared that it only cares about building for the Chinese market. “ But right now I have a rule when we talk about projects if the Chinese market doesn’t want it, I have no interest in it.” Westbank’s Director of Marketing Michael Braun said on the Westbank website2)Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8.
  3. Mr. Gillespie provides an “asset management” programme for absentee owners of his condominium projects, where property managers perform such tasks as running water through the taps and regularly switching on appliances should an apartment lie vacant for an extended period.3)http://www.scmp.com/property/international/article/1534655/vancouver-developer-targets-worlds-wealthy-his-52-storey
  4. Westbank sponsored a Yacht gala in China even as a judge ordered Mr. Gillespie’s other company to pay $200,000 in unpaid bills to a local contractor4)http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/06/2018BCSC0600.htm.
  5. Mr. Gillespie himself doesn’t offer any apologies for the sky high prices of his condos. “I don’t set the prices. It is what the market will bear,” Gillespie told reporters5)https://www.thestar.com/business/2007/02/10/king_of_highprice_condos_coming_to_town.html.

Instead of rewarding Mr. Gillespie for fueling the housing crisis, I implore you to take all action necessary to stop him and other like him from doing further devastating lives and livelihoods of Vancouverites. You have the duty, as the leader of our nation, to stop Mr. Gillespie from turning Vancouver into a grotesque caricature of his deformed phallic symbols: glistening on the outside, empty on the inside.

Thank you,

Rohana Rezel

References   [ + ]

1. Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy
2. Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8
3. http://www.scmp.com/property/international/article/1534655/vancouver-developer-targets-worlds-wealthy-his-52-storey
4. http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/06/2018BCSC0600.htm
5. https://www.thestar.com/business/2007/02/10/king_of_highprice_condos_coming_to_town.html

Automated Short Term Rental Accommodation Licence Integrity Checking System (ASTRALICS)

Problem

City of Vancouver recently regulated Airbnb and other short term rentals. Hosts are required to obtain a licence from the city and platforms are required to deactivate hosts without a valid licence. Recent news reports indicate that hosts have been getting away with fake numbers as there’s currently no mechanism for platforms to validate licence number.

Solution

Automated Short Term Rental Accommodation Licence Integrity Checking System (ASTRALICS ) is a proposed application programming interface (API) intended for City of Vancouver to publish, which Airbnb can use to validate licence numbers.

  1. Upon a host entering the licence number, Airbnb sends licence number, street number, street name, and unit number (in the case of strata units) to ASTRALICS.
  2. ASTRALICS checks the City of Vancouver licence database to see if an entry matching the request data exists in the system.
  3. If an entry is found, ASTRALICS responds with “valid”. Airbnb will accept the licence number
  4. If an entry is not found, ASTRALICS responds with “invalid”. Airbnb will reject the licence number.

Implementation

I have created a fully functional ASTRALICS prototype as 65-line Azure function in Java. It can be easily ported to other languages.

Demonstration

I have created an example licence database as follows:

 

LICENCENUMBER STREETNAME STREETNUMBER UNITNUMBER
555-1000 Robertson Street 2002
555-1001 Gregor Drive 1001 111

If you access ASTRALICS API with a valid licence number, as in the request below, you will get “valid” as the response.

https://astralics.azurewebsites.net/api/validate?licencenumber=555-1001&streetnumber=1001&streetname=Gregor%20Drive&unitnumber=111

If you access ASTRALICS API with a invalid licence, as in the request below, you will get “invalid” as the response.

https://astralics.azurewebsites.net/api/validate?licencenumber=12345&streetnumber=2002&streetname=Robertson%20Street

Source Code

package ca.rezel.astralics;

import java.sql.*;
import java.util.*;
import com.microsoft.azure.serverless.functions.annotation.*;
import com.microsoft.azure.serverless.functions.*;

/**
 * Automated Short Term Rental Accommodation Licence Integrity Checking System (ASTRALICS).
 * Author: Rohana Rezel
 * Licence: MIT Licence
 */

public class Function {
    @FunctionName("validate")
    public HttpResponseMessage<String> hello(
            @HttpTrigger(name = "req", methods = {"get"}, authLevel = AuthorizationLevel.ANONYMOUS) HttpRequestMessage<Optional<String>> request,
            final ExecutionContext context) {
        context.getLogger().info("Java HTTP trigger processed a request.");

        String licenceNumber = request.getQueryParameters().get("licencenumber");
        String unitNumber = request.getQueryParameters().get("unitnumber");
        String streetNumber = request.getQueryParameters().get("streetnumber");
        String streetName = request.getQueryParameters().get("streetname");
        HttpResponseMessage<String> returnValue = request.createResponse(500, "Server error");
        if (licenceNumber==null || streetNumber == null || streetName == null) {
            return request.createResponse(400, "licencenumber, streetnumber and streetname are required");
        } else {
            Connection connection;
            try {
                String url = "jdbc:sqlserver:YOUR_CONNECTION_STRING_HERE";
                connection = DriverManager.getConnection(url);

                String selectSql = "SELECT * from Licence WHERE licenceNumber=? AND streetNumber=? AND streetName=?";
                if (unitNumber != null) {
                    selectSql += " AND unitNumber=?";
                }

                try {
                    PreparedStatement statement = connection.prepareStatement(selectSql);
                    statement.setString(1, licenceNumber);
                    statement.setString(2, streetNumber);
                    statement.setString(3, streetName);
                    if (unitNumber != null) {
                        statement.setString(4, unitNumber);
                    }
                    ResultSet resultSet = statement.executeQuery();
                    if (resultSet.next()) {
                        returnValue = request.createResponse(200, "valid");
                    } else {
                        returnValue = request.createResponse(200, "invalid");
                    }
                    connection.close();
                } catch (Exception e) {
                    e.printStackTrace();
                }
            } catch (Exception e) {
                e.printStackTrace();
            }
        }
        return returnValue;
    }
}