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B.C.'s Airbnb restrictions have the support of nearly 6 in 10 residents, according to poll


The B.C. government's incoming short-term rental regulations are less popular with the provincial population than previous efforts to cool the housing market, but they still enjoy the support of nearly 60 per cent of B.C. residents, according to a new poll.

The new rules, which limit short-term rental businesses to a property owner's primary residence and one secondary suite on the same property, have the support of 58 per cent of respondents to the Research Co. survey

The poll was conducted online from Feb. 8 to 10 among a representative sample of 800 adults in B.C. and weighted to census data for age, gender and provincial sub-region, according to Research Co., which claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey asked respondents whether they agree or disagree with a variety of housing-related policies that have been implemented by the provincial and federal governments in recent years.

Of the 58 per cent who agreed with "banning homeowners from operating a short-term rental business unless it is located on their principal residence and/or on a different unit on their property," 30 per cent did so "strongly."

Twenty-eight per cent said they "moderately agree" with the policy, while 30 per cent disagreed (20 per cent moderately and 10 per cent strongly) and the remaining 12 per cent were unsure.

The results did not vary significantly based on home ownership, with 62 per cent of those who rent their primary dwelling agreeing with the policy, compared to 57 per cent of those who own.

Short-term rental rules already affecting visitors

The new short-term rental restrictions take effect May 1, but visitors to the province with upcoming bookings are already being affected.

On Tuesday, CTV News spoke with Nicola Lloyd, who was planning to stay in an Airbnb on Vancouver Island this spring. The U.K. resident said she was surprised to be contacted by the host, informing her that her stay would not be possible because of the new rules. 

“I’m sorry for this confusion and inconvenience to you,” the message she received reads.

"It is a devastating blow to all Airbnb hosts who love their jobs and are losing their businesses and livelihoods."

That's the argument that many short-term rental business operators have been making since the changes were adopted, claiming they're being unfairly targeted and that their businesses are not distorting the local rental market in the way the government says they are.

When the legislation was announced, officials estimated there were 28,000 short-term rentals operating across the province, including a significant number run by for-profit operators, as opposed to regular homeowners.

The provincial government estimates there are 16,000 "entire homes" being used as short-term rentals in the province, which it argues makes it harder for long-term residents to find a place to live.

Speculation, foreign buyers taxes still popular

While a majority of Research Co.'s survey respondents agreed with the new short-term rental rules, the percentage that did so was notably smaller than the total that agreed with some of the other policies canvassed.

Asked about the provincial government's implementation of the speculation tax, its increase of the foreign buyers tax from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, and its expansion of the foreign buyers tax to areas outside Metro Vancouver – all of which took place years ago – roughly seven in 10 poll respondents were supportive of each one.

A total of 69 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the speculation tax, while 71 per cent agreed with the increase in the foreign buyers tax rate and 74 per cent agreed with its geographic expansion.

More than 40 per cent "strongly" agreed with each of those three policies.

Other previously implemented policies – specifically increasing the property transfer tax on the portion of a home's value over $3 million from three per cent to five per cent and introducing new property taxes of 0.2 per cent on values between $3 million and $4 million and 0.4 per cent on values above $4 million – had lower rates of support.

The poll found 62 per cent of respondents agreeing with each of those policies.

Little faith that policies will be effective

Every policy canvassed in the survey had more support than opposition, but when respondents were asked whether they think the provincial government's efforts to make housing more affordable would be effective, considerable skepticism emerged.

Forty-one per cent said they felt the government's efforts would be either "somewhat effective" or "very effective," while a larger portion – 47 per cent – said the policies would be somewhat or very ineffective. The rest were unsure.

Notably, only seven per cent of respondents said they felt the government's efforts would be "very effective." More than twice as many – 18 per cent – felt the policies would be "very ineffective."

That doesn't mean British Columbians think a different party could do better, though.

The governing NDP had the trust of 46 per cent of respondents to the poll on the issue of affordable housing. Eleven per cent say they "completely trust" the NDP to deliver affordable housing, while 35 per cent say they "moderately trust" the governing party.

For the opposition parties, the figures were worse. Thirty-five per cent said they would "completely" or "moderately" trust the BC Green Party to deliver affordable housing, 32 per cent said they would trust the BC Conservatives, and 29 per cent said they would trust the official Opposition, BC United.

The poll found relatively little faith in other levels of government, with 42 per cent saying they trust their municipal government – though only 6 per cent trusting it "completely" – and 35 per cent trusting Justin Trudeau's federal Liberal government on the affordable housing issue.

Other federal parties saw similarly low trust, with 35 per cent saying they would trust Pierre Poilievre's Conservatives to deliver affordable housing and 40 per cent saying they would trust a government led by Jagmeet Singh's federal NDP on the issue.

For-profit developers were also widely distrusted in the poll, with fewer than one in four respondents saying they would trust such companies to deliver affordable housing.

Not-for-profit developers were the most trusted, with a total of 49 per cent saying they trust non-profits to deliver more affordable housing, though only seven per cent said they would trust such entities "completely" on the matter.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Abigail Turner Top Stories

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