New Toronto Airbnb rules would require hosts to live at property they’re listing

Torontonians will only be able to list short-term rentals for the property they live in, if city hall approves new recommendations released Monday.

The city’s municipal licensing and standards division released a series of new proposals Monday following months of consultation. The new rules aren’t in place yet, but staff are recommending:

Banning people from listing units where they don’t live.
Amending zoning bylaws to create a separate category called “short-term rental.”
Licensing companies like Airbnb and others.
Starting a registry of anyone operating a short-term rental unit.
Critics, like the Fairbnb coalition, accuse investors of snapping up multiple properties and running them like “ghost hotels,” further reducing the amount of affordable rental housing in the city. Airbnb — the largest player in the short-term rental sector — says it supports “sensible regulations,” but maintains its service is benefiting more than 9,900 hosts while generating hundreds of millions in tourism revenue for Toronto.
Mayor John Tory says he wants online home-sharing services to continue, saying there’s no point in trying to “turn back the hands of time,” but the city needs to stop people from buying up units with the sole intention of running them as short-term rentals.

“This is extremely disruptive to neighbourhoods,” he told reporters.

“It is taking housing off the market that might otherwise be available for long-term permanent renters as it were — and that’s a problem for us.”

Coun. Joe Cressy, whose ward has hundreds of Airbnb units, says he’s optimistic that city council will approve the rules.

Like Tory, Cressy says he wants “true home-sharing” to continue, but says the city has to crack down on those snapping up affordable housing to offer up to tourists.

“Neighbourhoods like Kensington Market have been deeply affected … today’s regulations will stop that,” he said.

Cressy says council’s biggest task will be ensuring the regulations have enough “teeth” when it comes to enforcement.

Fairbnb coalition supports city’s plan
Fairbnb researcher Thorben Wieditz praised the city’s proposed new measures, which match several his group recently suggested, and says he’s confident they’ll be approved by council. However, he’s also concerned about enforcement.

“I think my greatest concern would be to have super nice regulations in place … but then no one is actually obeying the new regulations,” he told reporters.

Tory said the city would rely mostly on neighbours reporting issues with short-term rentals.

“I think if you have a very disruptive Airbnb unit next door, you’ll be very quick to get in touch with the city,” Wieditz said.

Airbnb reviewing recommendations

Alex Dagg, Airbnb’s public policy manager in Canada, said the company welcomes the move toward regulating home-sharing. Dagg said that the short-term rental industry has helped people cover their housing costs in a hot market.

“The vast majority of Airbnb hosts in Toronto use home-sharing to help pay the bills and afford to stay in their homes,” she said in a statement.

Airbnb says in 2016, the average host rented out their place for about 50 nights per year, taking in just under $5,000.

More than 450,000 people visiting Toronto stayed in Airbnb units last year — bringing with them an estimated $417 million in spending, the company estimates.

Tory’s executive committee will be debating the new measures at its meeting next Monday and the city will be holding more consultation sessions about the proposed changes.

City council will get the final say.

By John Rieti, CBC News Posted: Jun 12, 2017 5:00 AM ET