City holds public hearing to regulate shortterm vacation rentals in Vancouver

VANCOUVER — Many proponents of the home sharing platform Airbnb called on Vancouver to loosen terms of proposed regulations on the industry, but renters advocates and condominium boards say tight rules are exactly what is needed.The city hosted a public hearing Tuesday on its proposed bylaw for short-term rentals including Airbnb and Expedia that would require hosts to hold a licence and only allow them to rent out their primary residence.The city says more than 6,000 illegal short-term rentals are in operation while housing affordability is at a crisis and the rental vacancy rate is extremely low at less than one per cent.It estimates at least 1,000 of those rental units are not the host’s primary residence, meaning they would not permitted under proposed regulation. The remaining 70 to 80 per cent of units would be eligible for licensing.Alex Dagg, Airbnb policy manager, told council that while the company supports regulating the industry, it takes issue with the proposed definition of a primary residence and the limitation on the number of rentals that can occur at one time.She said the proposed bylaw would force many people who live part time in Vancouver or have secondary suites to give up or scale back their operation, without resulting in their suites opening up for the long term rental market.City staff say the proposed bylaw is intended to legalize the industry and force units that should be part of the general housing supply back into the long-term market.Short-term rentals only permitted currently for hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that are licensed and zoned for that purpose.Karen Sawatzky, chair of the city’s renters advisory committee, said council should move forward with the regulation as proposed as soon as possible because short-term rentals pose “a prolific threat against the city’s renters.”She said she’s particularly in favour of exclusion of secondary suites, such as basement suites, from the definition of a primary residence because those could be better used as longer term housing.“City policies should not implicitly endorse or support people taking on larger mortgages than their own incomes or regular monthly rental rates can support,” Sawatzky said, adding people with secondary units can continue to rent them out but for more than 30 days at a time.Airbnb host and homeowner Bernadette D’Silva told council she used to have long-term tenants in her basement suite but had too many problems with noise.When the last tenants moved out, she said her family didn’t rent out the space again until short-term stays became an option.“I’m one of the hosts who would never go back to long-term renting,” D’Silva said. “If you gave me the chance to go back to long-term renting and said we’re going to disallow short-term rental, that would actually take away the income when we need it.”Enforcing the regulations could be a challenge when these businesses operate largely online, city staff say.The city has included a stipulation in the proposed bylaw that would ban people from marketing a short-term rental unit online or elsewhere unless they have a licence.The business licence number would have to be included in any advertisement of the unit, according to the proposed bylaw.To be eligible for a licence, the city would also require operators to have approval from their condominium boards, property owner or landlord.Polina Furtula, a lawyer for a number of condo boards, said that approval isn’t enough to ensure people won’t rent out their spaces without necessary permissions or use an alias on home sharing platforms.“How are you going to catch them?” she said to council, adding that the onus should be placed on home sharing platforms like Airbnb.“I don’t think it’s going to cost them too much to ask for some evidence that you’re the rightful owner or tenant or have permission to rent the property,” she said.The proposed licence would cost hosts $49 annually. City staff are also recommending that a transaction fee of up to three per cent be implemented on short term rentals — a cost it expects will fall on visitors.Dagg said Airbnb could support including licence numbers on its platform, but a transaction fee could only be collected if imposed by the province, as Quebec has done.If approved, the bylaw would go into effect in April.The city says more than 90 people were registered to speak at the public hearing. It’s expected to continue Thursday.–Follow @Givetash on Twitter. read more

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Feds brush off budget watchdogs legal opinion on government secrecy

by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 18, 2012 8:29 pm MDT Feds brush off budget watchdog’s legal opinion on government secrecy AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email OTTAWA – The federal government says it has already provided Parliament’s budget watchdog with all the necessary information on the impact of budget cuts, despite a new legal opinion saying government is breaking the law by refusing to cough up more details.“We have provided financial and economic data in accordance with our understanding of our legal obligations,” Raymond Rivet, a spokesman for the Privy Council Office, said in an email statement.“We have received the legal opinion and will review it.”Budget officer Kevin Page published a legal opinion on Monday saying that 64 federal departments and agencies are breaking the law in their refusal to hand over basic economic and financial information.While the opinion centres around $5.2 billion in spending cuts announced in the budget, the same reasoning applies to lack of information on previous rounds of spending constraint — cuts that amount to about $11 billion annually, Page said in an interview.Without basic details about how the government plans to make ends meet, the parliamentary budget officer said he is not able to do his job and inform MPs about exactly how Ottawa is spending taxpayers’ money.He said only 18 of 82 federal organizations have complied with his request for more details about the fiscal impact of the latest cuts.“The information should have been provided as requested and both your department and the other departments that have not complied are in violation of the legal obligations under the (Parliament of Canada) Act,” Page wrote in a letter to Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council.Wouters is the federal government’s top civil servant.The legal opinion provides the groundwork for challenging the government in Federal Court, but Page said he would prefer if the paperwork acted instead as a catalyst for discussion — and the quick release of the budget details themselves.“We hope to get a response back from the public service, from the government, on our legal opinion,” Page said in an interview. “Did we craft it right? Have we argued our case correctly? Do they have a different point of view?“Most importantly, what we hope to get back is the information we requested.”Instead, federal ministers repeatedly pointed to other government reporting mechanisms that they say will provide the necessary details on cuts.“This prime minister and this government will continue to report to Parliament through the means that have been used for many years. This includes the estimates, the supplementary estimates, quarterly reports and the public accounts,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in the House of Commons.Page’s staffers have gone through every line of those reports and have not been able to piece together a complete accounting of the government plan, or even if there is such a plan.In the legal opinion, lawyers said the act requires the federal government to release financial and economic data in a timely matter.“No legal exception to this requirement has been advanced and none appears from the analysis of the correspondence exchanged,” said the summary of the legal opinion. “Accordingly, the non-compliant departments have statutory obligations to provide the information.”The federal government has said in the past that it can’t release the details of its budget cuts because of collective agreements with employees, and it repeated that line on Monday. But the legal opinion points out that Page is not asking for any personal information, nor does he aim to obtain details that would only be available in cabinet documents.“It is in the interests of Parliament and the Canadian public that such information be made available immediately,” Page said in the Monday letter. “As I have mentioned before, it is only with such information that Parliament can exercise its constitutional role of controlling public finances.”There’s more than just fiscal policy at stake in the standoff between Page and the government; there’s also the scope of the parliamentary budget office itself.The office was created through the Conservatives’ own Accountability Act in 2006, and Page is the first to hold the job. He is trying to determine exactly how far his mandate allows him to go.“I think there’s a fiscal issue, which is why we were obviously involved in it,” Page said in the interview. “I think there’s a bigger issue about institutions, about the role and the mandate of the parliamentary budget office as well. We need access to information.”His office has clashed frequently with the government, with him demanding more information and the government accusing him of reaching shoddy conclusions with the information he does manage to collect.They have sparred publicly over the cost of the F-35s, the Tory crime agenda, stimulus spending and the reliability of long-term forecasting. This is the first time, however, that Page has sought such a legal opinion.Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair said the legal opinion is one more piece of proof that the Conservatives are trying to fool the public with their convoluted budget process.“Once again the Conservatives are trying to hide the truth about their Trojan Horse budget,” Mulcair said, pointing out that government unions had already given the government the green light to release the requested information.The NDP has been on the offensive over the budget especially in the past few weeks, protesting the government’s bundling of disparate measures into a massive omnibus budget bill. read more

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Applications for US unemployment benefits fell last week in latest sign of

by Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press Posted Nov 19, 2015 6:33 am MDT Last Updated Nov 19, 2015 at 11:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Applications for US unemployment benefits fell last week in latest sign of job market health In this Oct. 6, 2015, photo, military veteran Mark Cannon, of Miami, right, talks with Cynthia Carcillo, a veterans outreach representative for Career Source Broward, about employment opportunities at a job fair for veterans, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The Labor Department reported Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, that fewer Americans sought unemployment aid a week earlier, fresh evidence that companies are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) WASHINGTON – The Labor Department reported Thursday that fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, fresh evidence that companies are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers.THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 271,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to 270,750.The number of people that are receiving benefits was mostly unchanged, at 2.18 million.KEY DRIVERS: Businesses appear to have been mostly unfazed by a weaker economy in the July-September quarter, when growth slowed to just 1.5 per cent at an annual pace. They haven’t responded by cutting more jobs.BIG PICTURE: Hiring is typically healthy when applications are so low. Employers added 271,000 jobs in October, the largest monthly gain this year. The unemployment rate fell to 5 per cent from 5.1 per cent in the previous month.There have also been signs that average pay is finally picking up after roughly six years of sluggish growth. Average hourly wages rose 2.5 per cent in October from a year earlier, the largest annual gain since 2009.Still, that remains below the 3.5 per cent pace that is typical in a healthy economy.October’s job gain came after two months of tepid hiring in August and September. Yet employers have added an average of 206,000 jobs a month this year. That’s enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.ANALYST’S VIEW: “Firms are holding onto employees” perhaps in part because they worry that replacing people will be difficult, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.THE TAKEAWAY: Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low level suggests companies are cutting few jobs. read more

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