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Toronto City Council formally calls on short-term rentals to delist properties not playing by the rules

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DH Toronto Staff Feb 01, 2019 7:25 am 1,795
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The City of Toronto is formally calling out Airbnb regarding its short-term rentals.

A Member Motion about rental platforms introduced by Councillor Joe Cressy and seconded by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam was supported by councillors with a 21-1 vote, and calls for the popular rental site to delist properties not playing by the rules.

“As we know all too well, our city continues to struggle with a growing housing crisis — not only in affordability, but in the availability of safe rental housing,” reads the motion. “With over 181,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing, and a rental vacancy rate of only 1%, the crisis is a critical point.”

It also says that in December 2017, after years of work, the city approved regulations to both permit short-term rentals, “while at the same time protecting our city’s rental housing stock.”

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The regulations, which tried to strike a balance between permitting home-sharing in a principal residence, while simultaneously creating a legal framework to allow the service and protect the city’s fragile rental housing stock, were then appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

But a new report issued in January showed that 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 council document also adds that “these homes and units, often purchased in bulk by corporations and taken permanently off the rental market and used as permanent short-term rentals, would not be permitted under the rules passed by the city in 2017.”

“The crisis is complex, as are the solutions – we need new affordable housing, deeper affordability and much more. We also need AirBnB to become part of the housing affordability solution.”

Fairbnb, the advocacy group behind the housing report, called this a “much-needed intervention in the midst of Toronto’s housing crisis.”

“In a city that suffers from a severe affordable rental housing crisis, with 8,700 homeless Torontonians, and a tenant population of whom close to half makes less than $40,000 a year, losing thousands of potential rental units to commercial, short-term Airbnb rentals that accommodate tourists is unconscionable,” says Bahar Shadpour from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.

The group says that voluntary compliance by Airbnb would result in the delisting of over 8,200 currently non-compliant listings, out of which 6,500 entire homes could be transferred back onto Toronto’s long-term housing market.

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.

But, in a statement to Daily Hive, Airbnb says that report that Councillor Cressy is using to support this motion was paid for by a hotel lobby group and is based on faulty assumptions and poor research.

“Airbnb and its more than 14,000 Toronto hosts worked collaboratively with the city throughout the regulatory process for short-term rental regulations,” said Alex Dagg of Airbnb.

Dagg also said that a group of hosts launched an appeal at LPAT because they felt the regulations weren’t fair.

“That is their democratic right. This process exists for a reason and Airbnb will not infringe upon that right by implementing regulations that are currently being challenged.”

Airbnb, she added, is also “legally unable to abide by the requirements of the regulations that are currently under appeal as we do not have the authority to comply with regulations that are not in force.”

She said this could potentially open both the city and Airbnb to legal challenges.

“It is troubling that Councillors Cressy and Wong Tam are working with the hotel lobby to advocate for bypassing a democratic appeal process put in place to give voice to the citizens of Toronto,” Dagg said.

“The families using our platform share their homes a few nights each month to earn supplemental income that helps them make ends meet in an increasingly expensive city.”

Currently, 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 Rentals.ca report also predicts that rental prices may go up 11% in 2019 in Toronto.

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