As Canada’s biggest cities move to regulate Airbnb-like services, the short-term rental service awaits a similar fate in London

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Proposed rules for short-term rentals in London will likely limit owners to using their own homes, the city’s chief bylaw officer says.

London is likely to follow the lead of Vancouver and Toronto that are putting rules in place to prevent owners from using investment properties for Airbnb and other accommodation services offering short-term stays, Orest Katolyk said.

“We recognize that there’s a difference between sharing your home — either vacant space in your home or when you’re not using your home — as opposed to investors purchasing properties and turning them into mini-boutique hotels.”

Bylaw enforcement staff are developing proposed regulations for Airbnb and similar services and plan to present them to city council’s community and protective services committee in the fall, Katolyk said.

Staff are working with the Urban League of London and consulting community partners. Katolyk also has talked with representatives of Airbnb, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2008.

“We’ve had very good discussions with Airbnb. We’ve met with them in person and they’re very open and transparent with us about sharing activity in London and locations in London,” he said.

Airbnb says it has more than three million listings in nearly 200 countries.

The company says as of April 1, the latest date for which information is available, it had 367 listings in London hosted by 300 users. Between April 2016 and April 2017, 11,000 guests used the service to stay in London.

London’s proposed rules for Airbnb and other short-term rental companies will likely deter a scenario where a building would become something similar to a boutique hotel, Katolyk said.

“If you get a boutique hotel in the middle of a low-density residential neighbourhood — be it north London or Old South — it’s guaranteed that there will be complaints on parking, noise and garbage.”

Hotel-mimicking properties haven’t popped up yet in London but the issue sits at the top of the list of problems that the short-term rental industry poses in Toronto and Vancouver.

In these Canadian cities and other major metropolitan areas across the globe, the short-term rental industry has threatened long-term residents because of the income capability created from night-to-night stays in luxury or highly sought after areas.

“We’re not seeing that type of activity in London,” Katolyk said.

Toronto approved plans a few weeks ago to go ahead with regulation of short-term rental services.

The regulations limit homeowners to hosting short-term rentals in more than one property. That property must be the renter’s primary residence.

Vancouver’s city council will vote on similar regulations this week. The proposal in Vancouver will legalize short-term rentals only in principal residences.

Short-term rentals are defined in Toronto as 28 days and Vancouver as 30 days. In London, a short-term rental is less than a month.

Katolyk said the regulations presented in London will be shaped around the same principle guiding those in Toronto and Vancouver.

Keeping up-to-date with global trends and instituting appropriate regulations is a necessity, he said.

“This is a global phenomenon — the philosophy of a shared economy.”

The city’s attempt to regulate Airbnb follows a long and at times fractious debate over bringing in regulations for Uber, a ride-hailing service at the forefront of the shared economy.

Using an app to match riders with drivers, Uber launched in London two years ago without a regulatory framework in place.

City council finally approved regulations in February — 18 months after Uber’s launch — following the ticketing of some Uber drivers, protests by the taxi industry and an ultimatum from Uber that it would pull out of London if city council required drivers to have security cameras in vehicles.

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