Vancouver City Council has voted to legalize short-term rentals such as Airbnb, but will limit them to principal residences.

Members of the ruling Vision Vancouver slate said the decision came down to preserving the city’s already limited long-term rental housing supply, rather than boosting the tourism business.

"These are really, really, really valuable places for people to live in," said Coun. Heather Deal during the debate.

The decision comes after a lengthy consultation process that involved a tug-of-war between residents who need the short-term rental income to pay their mortgages and the people who say they can't afford to compete for suites with deep-pocketed tourists.

Some 6,000 suites are on offer at services such as Airbnb, according to city estimates. Most are principal residences offered up on vacation. The city estimates the new rules will affect only the roughly 800 to 1,600 suites that are basement suites or commercial operations.

Under the new rules, a homeowner will have to get a $49 per year licence and display that licence on their listing.

A room in a home could be put up on Airbnb, but a basement suite in that home would have to be rented out long-term to residents.

Renters will need their landlord’s permission to list their residence.

City staffer Kaye Krishna told council these services have experienced exponential growtth, which has presented a lot of challenges local officials.

Some 13,700 units have been removed from the rental housing stock in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, she said.

Around the world, short-term rentals have jumped from 300,000 in 2008 to 4.5 million in 2016, she said.

Coun. Andrea Reimer said the housing crisis is so severe that she has been evicted 11 times as a renter.

"I arrived and got a notice on my door yesterday," she said. It was her second eviction in 16 months.

Coun. Melissa de Genova asked if there is a "loophole" in the law that would allow family members to "rent" a basement suite for $1/year and then list it on Airbnb.

Krishna said it was possible, as long as the family member did live there as his or her permanent residence.

Cities around the world have taken different approaches to regulating Airbnb. Paris has capped rentals to 120 days a year in some parts of the city. Seattle has levied a $14/night fee on whole homes, and an $8/night fee on bedrooms.

In Toronto, city officials are looking at adopting similar regulations based on whether a listed suite is a primary residence or not.