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Toronto to put the squeeze on Airbnb, short-term rental market

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WATCH ABOVE: The City of Toronto wants to see changes that will address concerns about short-term rentals. Sean O’Shea reports – Jun 12, 2017

Limiting short-term rentals to a person’s principal residence is just one of the measures city staff is proposing to regulate the Airbnb-style market in Toronto.

A report to be presented at next week’s executive committee meeting also calls for the creation of a registry for rental operators, as well as licensing companies that offer up short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

The proposal would include a new short-term rental tax of up to 10 per cent and a new zoning framework that would permit rentals across the city in the principal residence of any owner or tenant in residential and mixed use zones.

READ MORE: Ontario partners with Airbnb to inform users of rights and responsibilities

“I think regulations should be imposed for sure, I would welcome it,” said Leigh Cole, an Airbnb host who told Global News a guest stole almost $20,000 in cash and jewelry from her home. She later learned the guest was a convicted criminal who has since been arrested again.

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The staff report states the regulation would permit approximately 7,600 properties rented on Airbnb in 2016 to continue to operate, but that about 3,200 properties would be de-listed as “they likely did not occur in a principal residence.”

“The idea is to start to regulate and to register and to license people who are in this business in a way that they can provide for a new way to accommodate people but at the same time start to limit the disruption of neighbourhoods,” Mayor John Tory told reporters during a press conference at city hall Monday morning.

VIDEO: Ontario court ruling gives condos boards right to ban Airbnb, short-term rental services

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Ontario court ruling gives condos boards right to ban Airbnb, short-term rental services – Dec 12, 2016

Companies such as Airbnb would be required to report quarterly to the city with data on rentals, share details about certain listings, remove problem listings and pay a licensing fee.

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“We’ve said publicly many times it’s fair to pay our fair share, but we’re concerned it is fair across all all platforms,” said Alex Dagg, public policy manager with Airbnb in Toronto.

READ MORE: Toronto Airbnb host speaks out after $21,000 theft

Operators would be permitted to register their principal residence only, and one registration number would apply to all listings associated with that address. They would also need to provide emergency and safety information to guests and pay a registration fee.

Fairbnb.ca, a coalition made up of homeowners, tenants, tourism businesses and labour organizations, said the proposal could put Toronto on the cutting edge of regulating home sharing companies in North America.

LISTEN BELOW: Fairbnb representative Thorben Wieditz joins AM640 to discuss the proposed regulations.

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“It’s really good to see that there is a political appetite to cut out the commercialization of home-sharing and really help Airbnb to reduce, or return to its home-sharing roots so to speak,” Thorben Wieditz, member of the advocacy group Fairbnb.ca, told reporters at city hall on Monday.

The mayor said the recommendations will be reviewed and public consultations will be conducted before any bylaws are amended and new regulations imposed.

READ MORE: With Airbnb Trips, Canadians can now run any kind of local tour they wish

“What we’ve done here, as we’ve tried to do with everything, is to achieve a balance between this kind of availability for tourists and others and the needs for people for permanent housing and the need for stable neighbourhoods,” Tory said.

Meanwhile, recommendations for an exact tax number on hotel and short-term rentals will come forward later this year.

LISTEN BELOW: Head of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing & Standards department, Tracy Cook joins AM640.

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“Hotels are presently paying commercial taxes to the city which is a substantially increased rate of tax over residential taxes,” Tory said. “So a condominium owner who puts his or her condo into Airbnb is only paying residential taxes.”

If approved, the staff report will be brought to city council for a vote with final recommendations to be released later this year.

VIDEO: Ontario partners with Airbnb to inform users of rights and responsibilities

Click to play video 'Ontario partners with Airbnb to inform users of rights and responsibilities' Ontario partners with Airbnb to inform users of rights and responsibilities
Ontario partners with Airbnb to inform users of rights and responsibilities – Feb 19, 2016

With files from Sean O’Shea and Stephanie Gordon