Toronto moves towards reining in Airbnb-style rentals

Following in the footsteps of cities like Vancouver and New York, Toronto city council is taking its first step towards regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb.

City regulations will help regular Torontonians find apartments, says housing advocacy group

Fairbnb's Thorben Wieditz said he welcomes the idea that Toronto could regulate Airbnb. (CBC)

Following in the footsteps of cities like Vancouver and New York, Toronto city council is taking its first step toward regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb.

Next week, council's executive committee will review a report on short-term rentals, kicking off a process of consultations and research with city stakeholders that will begin in 2017.

That's what Thorben Wieditz and the other members of a coalition of hotel workers and housing advocates called Fairbnb have been pushing for since they formed over the summer.

"What we hear from city councillors and residents is that Airbnb impacts everyone," Wieditz said in an interview.

"We have to establish a fair marketplace. Every business has to play by the rules."

Looking to other cities

Wieditz said Vancouver could serve as a source of inspiration to Toronto lawmakers when it comes to regulating the practice.

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Last month, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson unveiled a plan that would only allow rentals lasting fewer than 30 days to happen in a home that's also someone's principal residence.

That rule would take a bite out of professional renters who rent out units short-term instead of putting them up for traditional leases, which has been blamed for shrinking the long-term rental market.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city's proposed Airbnb regulations could shut down 1,000 short-term listings. (CBC)

"Thirteen per cent of hosts actually generate close to 40 per cent of the revenue for Airbnb, so there is a growing concentration of commercial hosts [in Toronto]," said Wieditz, who hopes more rules would lead to more affordable housing in the city.   

Fairbnb also wants to see the regulations adopted by the city go beyond rules for hosts and extend to the home-sharing platforms themselves.  

"This would require Airbnb and others to monitor their listings and enforce city regulations, something that has been done in San Francisco and Santa Monica," said Wieditz.

Airbnb says they will play ball

Airbnb Canada's public policy manager Alexandra Dagg told CBC that her company would also welcome more regulation.

"We want to be the best practices leader for home sharing. That's why we are leading the way with the city, and the city councillors," she said.

Dagg also acknowledged the professional renter problem.

"If there are professional operators sharing multiple units on our platform, there should be regulations designed to deal with that," she said.  

With files from CBC's Metro Morning