Short-term rentals facilitated by Airbnb and similar websites could soon become legal in Vancouver. 

Current bylaws only allow licensed hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to rent out living spaces for fewer than 30 days at a time, but changes proposed by the city would let homeowners buy a short-term rental licence for just $49 a year.

Renters would also be eligible for an STR licence, provided they have the owner's permission.

But given Vancouver's historically low rental vacancy rate, which has hovered below one per cent for years, the proposal also includes a number of restrictions aimed at keeping long-term housing stock available for locals.

"Our focus is on ensuring that we do protect our long-term rental housing, and also that we ensure that people can make supplemental income from short-term rentals," Mayor Gregor Robertson said Wednesday.

Secondary homes, secondary suites inside homes, and laneway homes that aren't principal residences could not be used for short-term rentals under the proposed changes, according to the city.

Websites that list STRs would also be barred from advertising unlicensed properties. According to Airbnb, there are roughly 5,100 hosts in Vancouver, and more than 80 per cent of them share their primary residence, the kind allowed under the city’s proposal.

City councillors are expected to vote on the changes next week.

Airbnb issued a statement shortly after the city’s announcement applauding the “move toward regulating home sharing.”

"We continue to recommend fair, easy-to-follow rules that support our responsible host community," a spokesperson said. "The vast majority of Airbnb hosts in Vancouver use home sharing to help pay the bills and afford to stay in their homes."

On top of the annual licence fee, homeowners would be asked to pay a one-time activation fee of $54. Facilitator sites such as Airbnb would also be required to collect a transaction fee of up to three per cent on Vancouver's behalf.

The money collected would help fund the administration and enforcement of STR licensing.