Toronto

Short-term rental rules coming for Toronto, even as condo inks deal with Airbnb

One downtown condo may have cut a first-of-its-kind deal with Airbnb, but the city’s still pushing ahead with plans to regulate the short-term rental market.

Group representing short-term renters urges city to reconsider some of its plans

While one condo has reached a deal with Airbnb to allow short-term rentals, the city is pushing ahead with its own set of regulations. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

One downtown condo building may have cut a first-of-its-kind deal with Airbnb, but the city's still pushing ahead with plans to regulate the short-term rental market.

Coun. Joe Cressy says he routinely hears from people in his wards who are struggling to find rental housing, or losing their rental housing, only to see units available on various short-term rental platforms. He says new city-wide rules will be the only way to stop that.

"People who want to share their home will be able to," he told CBC Toronto.

"But people who want to purchase rental housing units, take those rental housing units off the market and turn them into ghost hotels, that's not allowed. That creates deep problems for a city in desperate need of affordable and rental housing."

City staff will present draft regulations covering everything from licensing to taxation at three separate committee meetings in November, following months of public meetings on the matter. The biggest rule change is expected to be a rule that states people can only rent out their primary residence, something that's already drawing criticism.

Group calls for city to back off primary residence provision

Zach Mandlowitz is the president of the Home Sharing Service Providers, a group that works with the owners of some 500 short-term rental units in the city (some owners have up to 60 units). He warns the primary residence provision could be an "existential question" for some owners, and wants the city to reconsider its stance before putting them out of business.

We need every available housing unit to be made available to people who are going to live in them.- Mayor John Tory

"They have the opportunity to be the gold standard in North America, and it's really important for them to get it right the first time," he said.

Mandlowitz has concerns about how the city will enforce the new rules it eventually approves, and suggests instead of shutting short-term rentals in residential areas down, they could be taxed at commercial rates and that money could be used to pay for affordable housing.

Cressy rejects that idea, and Mayor John Tory, asked about the condo building's deal with Airbnb, is also suggesting the city needs to focus on preserving the rental units it already has.

"We need every available housing unit to be made available to people who are going to live in them," he told reporters.

Council to vote on new rules before end of year

While the city has been crafting its regulations, Mandlowitz says those who run short-term rentals have been trying to cut down on common complaints about the industry, like people booking places just to party. He offers services that screen guests, and can put noise sensors in units that provide a notification if things are getting too loud.

Mandlowitz says he's also working with condo boards — which act like their own "mini jurisdictions," he says — to figure out how they deal with short-term rentals.

If approved at the committee level in November, the city's new short-term rental rules would go before the entire city council in December. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.

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