In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, AirBnB actually is approaching the Canadian government for “tax breaks”. As you can well imagine, there’s a lot of cancelled reservations for short term accommodation because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I have previously written about AirBnB which rents furnished units in places all around the world. Four years ago Iain Majoribanks was studying the impact of AirBnB on the Vancouver rental market while at the University of British Columbia.
He found that Airbnb has a centralized control of all listings and charges a 9 to 15 per cent service fee on all bookings. The company conceals the location and identity of the hosts offering rooms, making enforcement challenging for municipalities. He surmises that 99.3 per cent of all Airbnb Vancouver stays are less than 30 days.
Now the City of Vancouver has new regulations for short-term rentals but it still appears that some “hosts” are renting out different units, despite the fact that Vancouver by-laws allow short-term renting of only your main house.
Jen St. Denis reports for CTV News that Airbnb Canada has “asked the federal government for a series of tax breaks to help short-term rental hosts make up lost income from cancelled bookings during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Of course one of the things these rental hosts could do immediately is rent long-term to local residents. As The Guardian’s Rupert Neate writes, in Great Britain “landlords have flooded the rental market with their Airbnb flats…The number of new rentals Property portal Rightmove has on the market in the week the UK lockdown started increased by 45% in London, up 55% in Brighton, 62% in Edinburgh and 78% in Bath. It’s a similar story the world over with a 61% increase in Dublin and 41% in Prague.”
Meanwhile back in Canada hoping to keep AirBnB hosts mastering the short stay instead of providing month to month rentals, AirBnB trotted a four page letter to the federal government. That letter asked for GST/HST business expense credits for hosts, income tax reductions, short-term loans or mortgage deferrals, requested that hosts get Employment Insurance benefits and federal tax deferral. If that was not enough of an ask, AirBnB asked for a government paid tourist initiative to reboot the short-term stay business.
It seems a little odd when all these AirBnB owners need to do is rent their extra space out to longer term tenants. And the Duke of Data, Simon Fraser University’s City Program Director Andy Yan said it best:
“Everybody is hurting, period. It’s not just Airbnb hosts, it’s everybody. What makes Airbnb special? What makes Airbnb a priority in the discussion of relief? That’s not something I see in that letter.”
Andy Yan also got down to the root of the problem that AirBnB had created in Vancouver, by making rental units even harder for local residents to procure:
Renters in the Metro Vancouver area have had some of the greatest levels of precarity, before COVID-19. And after COVID, it’s not just the question of paying rent, it’s also loss of income.”
Don’t expect AirBnB to be receiving federal governmental aid any time soon.
Images: VancouverCourier & CTVNews