by Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Toronto’s mayor says proposed new rules for the city’s short-term rental market, including properties listed on Airbnb, would help strike a balance between the need for such accommodations and the disruptions they can cause to local neighbourhoods.
John Tory is defending a report released by the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department which lays out a number of proposals for individuals and companies who offer short-term rentals.
One proposed change would ban people from renting out homes that are not their primary residences.
Tory says such a move would help stabilize neighbourhoods by limiting the number of people staying there temporarily, while also potentially putting housing units back on the market for longer-term tenants.
Other recommendations include licensing short-term rental companies such as Airbnb, creating a registry for people who operate short-term rentals, and changing zoning bylaws to create a new land use classification for short-term rentals.
City council must vote on the recommendations, and Tory says the proposed rules are still open to public consultation and feedback.
But the mayor said there’s a need to address the short-term rental market in the city, which defenders argue brings millions of tourism dollars into the city. Airbnb estimates its users spent about $417 million in city neighbourhoods last year.
Tory argued that those who snap up secondary properties that they then list on Airbnb and similar websites risk destabilizing neighbourhoods by introducing transient populations into otherwise residential areas.
He said the proposed new rules, which the city estimates would remove about 3,200 properties from the short-term rental market, could limit that risk.
“I think what we’ve done here is we’ve tried to achieve a balance between this kind of availability for tourists and others, and the needs of people for permanent housing and the need for stable neighbourhoods,” Tory told a press conference on Monday.
The city report said limiting rentals to principle residences would still leave roughly 7,600 properties on the market.
The city based its information on 2016 data provided by Airbnb, the most high-profile platform through which people both list and book short-term rentals.
Airbnb said it welcomed Toronto’s move toward regulating home-sharing.
Alex Dagg, the company’s public policy manager for Canada, said Airbnb is reviewing the recommendations and plans to offer feedback to the city at a later date.
Toronto’s proposed rules come after Quebec implemented a law last year regulating properties on Airbnb and other home rental websites.
That law requires people who rent out accommodations for no more than 31 consecutive days to have a permit and pay a hotel tax. Individuals who violate the law can be fined between $2,500 and $25,000 daily, while corporations face penalties of between $5,000 and $50,000 a day.
Recent data suggests, however, that the majority of Quebecers who listed their properties on Airbnb and other home rental websites are not registering with the province.
The province’s Tourism Department says it issued 967 permits for rental hosts out of 2,244 applications in the year since the law took effect on April 15, 2016.
There were 19,400 Airbnb hosts in Quebec in 2016, according to the company’s data, and that doesn’t include people who rent out their homes on other websites such as VRBO and Kijiji. That would suggest a compliance rate of less than five per cent among Airbnb hosts alone.