Number of short-term listings double as Toronto's rental market continues to struggle

Jan 10 2019, 2:14 am

A short-term rentals coalition is showing how prominent “ghost hotels” are on Toronto’s short-term listings, and how much housing would be freed up in the city if rules were enforced.

Fairbnb Canada worked with Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy to release the report, Could Airbnb Turn Toronto’s Most Affordable Rental Housing Stock Into Ghost Hotel Suites?, stating that Toronto’s short-term rental rules are held up in a lengthy appeals process right now, a process that’s initiated by a number of Airbnb hosts and commercial short-term rental companies.

Cressy said that in his ward, he’s received countless calls regarding the issue of short-term rentals, adding that if rules were already in effect, “we would have the tools to prevent a lot of hard-ship for local residents dealing with the disruptive nature of ghost hotels and it would help folks who are looking to find permanent housing in Toronto, all they currently see on PadMapper are Airbnbs.”

According to their report, if the rules were enforced today, Airbnb, a $31-billion company, would have to cut over 8000 non-compliant listings from its website, “a task that would free up at least 6,500 housing units in a city that suffers from an acute housing crisis.”

The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations estimated 3,200 units were Airbnb’ed in 2016, 4,600 units in 2017, and more than 6,500 units in 2018.

“We have been seeing Toronto’s housing supply being gobbled up by Airbnb for a number of years,” said Gord Dent, of the Federation. “Airbnb is consuming our housing supply faster than I can say mortgage debt.”

In its report, Fairbnb Canada also challenged Airbnb’s repeated claim that the majority of the hosts are people sharing their homes for a few nights for extra cash.

“Our data confirms that about 70% of its host community are regular folks who occasionally rent out their home. This is home-sharing and we fully support it,” said Thorben Wieditz of Fairbnb Canada. “But what Airbnb doesn’t tell you is that 30% of its hosts community are commercial operators who run ghost hotels and are responsible for an estimated 73% of the company’s revenue. These folks turn Toronto’s homes into hotels and cause most of the neighbourhood disruptions we hear about.”

Cressy said that it’s time for Airbnb to play by the rules.

“We have an affordable housing crisis in our city,” said the councillor.

The vacancy rate for apartments in Canada’s rental market is below the average of the last 10 years.

In fact, Canada’s overall vacancy rate declined for the second year in a row to reach 2.4%, from 3% in 2017, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Rental Market Survey.

In Ontario, the vacancy rate remained near historical lows at 1.8%, compared to 1.6% in 2017.

The lowest vacancy rates can be found in Kingston at 0.6% and Toronto follows at 1.1%.

Additionally, about a quarter of renters in Toronto are spending more than 50% of their income on rent, according to the Canadian Rental Housing Index.

Its recent list shows 23% of renters in Toronto spend over half their household income on shelter, putting a growing number of families and individuals at a crisis level of spending and at risk of homelessness.

A recent report also predicts that rental prices may go up 11% in 2019 in Toronto.

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