New short-term rental rules get thumbs up from mayor's exec committee, but many say they're too strict

The city moved a step closer Monday night to cracking down on short-term rentals, but many Torontonians say the rules should be more flexible.

Airbnb hosts say they should be able to use their secondary properties they way they want

An analysis by city staff estimates that about one third of Toronto listings would be lost if the proposed rules are adopted by council. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The city moved a step closer Monday night to cracking down on short-term rentals, but many Torontonians say the rules should be more flexible. 

Mayor John Tory's executive committee voted to approve a set of recommendations, include changing the zoning bylaws to create a category called "short-term rentals," licensing companies like Airbnb and starting a registry for anyone operating a short-term rental unit.

The most controversial of the recommendations is banning users from renting out properties that they don't live in.

"I would love to see something similar to what has happened in San Francisco, New York and Portland where they have a one host, one home policy," said Jeff Timmons, who spoke at the meeting.

"This allows individuals to host from one home; it doesn't have to be their primary residence."

Timmons rents out his second home on a short-term basis and says getting a long-term renter wouldn't work for his lifestyle.

"We have such a large extended family that come and visit," said Timmons.

"We wouldn't be able to accommodate them in our primary residence, so we use the secondary property for them when they come."

Long wait at city hall

People waited at city hall all day to give their depositions about short-term rental services, the majority of which were positive.

Charlene Chalmers, who rents out rooms in her Toronto home, says the experience has not only helped her financially, hosting tourists has also opened her eyes to other cultures and traditions.

"It's like travelling around the world without ever leaving your home," said Chalmers.

By ensuring hosts only rent out their primary residences, the city hopes to free up some long-term rental stock, which, as CBC Toronto has been reporting, is in short supply in the city.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Monday that currently enforcement relies on "neighbours telling on neighbours." (CBC)

According to Airbnb, there are about 11,000 units available to rent in Toronto. Around 3,200 of those are owned by investors who only rent them out on a short-term basis.

"We don't live in a traditional economy anymore," said Marianne Moroney.

Moroney, who is a hotdog vendor, doesn't have a pension and relies on her second property as another source of income.

"Please don't strangle the [short-term rental] industry," she told the committee.

After hearing that sentiment echoed throughout the night, Coun. Ceasar Palacio introduced a motion to change the definition of a short-term rental from "principal residence" to "one Toronto residence," so long as it otherwise wouldn't be on the long-term rental market. That motion lost. 

Another concern that brought up, is how the city will enforce this primary residence policy. The mayor says that's going to be done with the public's help.

'Neighbours telling on neighbours'

"The complaints we get today are effectively neighbours telling on neighbours," Tory said.

"So where you have a party house, a sort of animal house, that's been created in some neighbourhood where they really don't want it, usually with a non-resident owner, or when you have an animal house created inside a condo building, we tend to hear about it," the mayor said.

The regulations now head to public consultations. City staff will present a final report to council later this year. 

About the Author

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and investigative journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: natalie.nanowski@cbc.ca