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Software, study and license listings proposed to help drive STA compliance

Council will review a report seeking funding for short-term accommodation compliance software, a study of the effects of STAs on the County’s housing supply, and an update on efforts to require STA booking platforms to list license numbers.

“The procurement of STA compliance software has the potential to change bylaw enforcement, at least in terms of STA compliance, from complaint-driven, to proactive,” states Noah Lister-Stevens, in the report.

Council, in February, had asked municipal staff for reports on these, and further examinations on zoning and bylaws as discussion had ensued on ending or modifying grandfathered STAs, setting up licensing into types of STAs and changes to the bylaw.

Tuesday night’s report focuses on the funding requests. Reports on revising other bylaws are to come at a future date.

An expression of interest would seek software companies able to provide software to root out illegal operators, provide a function for residents to report noise disturbances or suspected illegal STA activity and work with the municipality’s records to check validity of license numbers against a database.

Lister-Stevens notes most STA platforms, including the largest – AirBnB, Vrbo and Tripadvisor – already have the option to provide a dedicated field for hosts to list their license number.

“AirBnB in particular informed staff that while it is willing to work with the municipality on the creation of a mandatory booking number field (time estimate for implementation is one to two months); however they maintained they would only do so if the municipality showed substantial enforcement efforts with respect to all of AirBnB’s competitors (the primary ones in the County being TripAdvisor, HomeAway and Vrbo, which—according to AirBnB—it has only a narrow market lead over).

“Staff have reached out to policy experts at all of these companies with an eye towards pursuing similar conversations. This is a necessary step, given that if only one platform chooses to enforce a mandatory licensing field, there is nothing stopping other platforms from dropping this requirement and permitting a surge in posts from illegal operators.”

The report notes staff has also pursued several avenues for a study on the impact that STAs and the licencing program are having on the County’s affordable housing supply and their impact on the community.

“There are a handful of methodologies possible with such a study, but the overall questions to be asked will be how much of an impact the licensing program has had on the creation or removal of (affordable) housing units from the PEC real estate market, the effect that STAs are having on the local community as a whole and finally what improvements could or should be made to the program overall.”

The study should take approximately three to six months to achieve the results council requires within the necessary time frame.

Funding for the software (to a maximum of $25,000) would come from the Modernization Fund and ongoing fixed costs from the STA office’s budget; and for the market study (to a maximum of $30,000) from the STA Licensing Reserve.

Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting can be viewed online.

Filed Under: Local News

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