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‘Despicable’: Burnaby renters kicked out to make way for illegal Airbnb hotel

Landlord lied over reason for moving out tenants
A Burnaby listing on Airbnb. Screenshot

Finding reasonable rental accommodations in Burnaby is a rare thing indeed, according to the dozens of messages and interviews I’ve had so far this year.

People who rent say it’s getting harder and harder.

“The rent and eviction freeze during COVID-19 has made landlords work harder to milk us for money,” one renter told me. “My landlord invented a new parking fee that he tried to stick me with because they couldn’t jack up the rent. I fought it and now they are trying to push me out.”

Then there is the case of several renters who were pushed out earlier this year under the guise of the landlords moving family members into the house.

That turned out to be a lie.

“While we were moving out, there was a contractor on site getting to do some renovations,” said Gary. “I talked with the guy and he said the owner was fixing up the rooms to be rented out on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites. With the number of rooms they have, it’ll be like a hotel. Of course, I can't prove any of this, but that’s clearly what’s been happening. I’m getting ready to report them to the city. It’s despicable.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I found a 2018 NOW story that published just before I started at the paper that detailed a Burnaby home south of Deer Lake Park, close to Metrotown, that had been operating as a de-facto hotel.

The seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom home was sold for $2.65 million September 2017 before being renovated and converted into a nine-bedroom house hotel, according to B.C. Assessment data. Rooms at the time were listed separately on Airbnb, ranging from $39 to $65 a night.

"I would have bought a place next to hotel if I wanted to live next to one," one neighbour told the NOW. "This is ridiculous."

The neighbour said the constant flow of visitors meant she’s afraid to let her nine-year-old daughter cross the street without her watching.

"I'm scared, for my kids," she said. "Yes, you have to be cautious about anyone in your neighbourhood, but there's something to be said about anyone just coming and going, different people all the time.

"It's not that neighbourhood feel where you know who lives (nearby)."

In 2018, the city told the NOW that boarding houses are only permitted in certain zones, and operators would have to apply to a planning department for rezoning of the property.

These are just more examples of how people get unfairly evicted in Burnaby and beyond because of short-term rentals.

One of the first comprehensive analysis of rental evictions in Canada has found that both Metro Vancouver and B.C. see a significantly higher eviction rate than their counterpart provinces or metropolitan areas across the country.

The report, conducted by UBC researchers Silas Xuereb, Andrea Craig and Craig Jones through the Housing Research Collaborative, uncovered the major gap between rental eviction rates between B.C. and the rest of Canada after delving through data from the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey (surveying a total of more than 65,000 Canadians). 

For instance, the five-year eviction rate for B.C. in the report reached 10.6% - almost double that of the next highest province (Prince Edward Island, at 6.8%) and almost three times higher than the rate in the provinces/regions with the lowest eviction rates (Manitoba and Nunavut, 3.7%).

Metro Vancouver, meanwhile, also significantly outpaced other major Canadian metro areas for the dubious honour, with a five-year eviction rate of 10.5% - again almost or more than doubling other major Canadian CMAs like Toronto (5.8%) and Montreal (4.2%).

  • With reporting by Chuck Chiang, Business in Vancouver

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44