New regulations that would prohibit Torontonians from listing any properties other than their principal residence on short-term accommodations sites like Airbnb have been passed by city council at its final meeting of 2017.
The regulations create a new zoning category for short-term rentals as well as a central registry for anyone who is making their residence available on the short-term rental market.
The new regulations mean that anyone choosing to list their whole home or up to three bedrooms inside it on a website like Airbnb will have to register with the city and pay a $50 annual fee.
The regulations also cap the number of nights in a calendar year in which a full unit can be rented at 180 and restrict owners from renting out any property other than their principal residence. The proposed regulations did initially allow secondary suites to be listed on short-term accommodations sites, though the planning and growth management committee ultimately voted to remove that recommendation out of a concern that it would take properties from the conventional rental market.
“The Airbnb phenomenon is causing us two sets of problems. One is that people are buying up houses, turning them into short term rentals and changing entire neighbourhoods. The other problem, the one that concerns me the most, is that we are losing low income housing all over Toronto as they become Airbnb units,” Parkdale-High Park Coun. Gord Perks told CP24 on Thursday. “Yesterday we had a heartbreaking debate about the fact that our shelters are overflowing. Part of that problem is that the lowest of the low income people used to be in apartments that are now Airbnb units.”
Perks told CP24 that he is “angry” with Airbnb lobbyists who have told hosts that they can do “whatever they want with their property.” He said that the city has always placed regulations on the use of residential properties and will continue to do so.
“You can’t turn your house into a nightclub and destroy your neighbours peace of mind and you can’t turn your backyard into a place to store car parts and ruin the look of the neighbourhood. We have clear rules to make sure that neighbourhoods are good places for everyone to live,” he said.
Airbnb will have to pay fees to city
In addition to creating new restrictions on Airbnb operators, the regulations also create a regulatory framework for sites like Airbnb.
Under the regulations, short-term accommodations companies will have to pay the city a licensing fee of $1 for each night booked on their platform as well as a one-time registration fee of $5,000.
The regulations also require that licensed short-term rental companies keep records of every listing and provide them to the city’s licensing and standards department at agreed upon intervals.
Speaking with CP24 on Thursday morning, Airbnb Canada spokesperson Alex Dagg said that the city has been “smart” in the way it has approached regulating short-term accommodations sites.
“We have worked with cities all over the globe and we try to approach it in a partner kind of way to sort of get it right and we are looking forward to continuing that positive relationship here in the city. Hopefully council gets it right today,” she said.
Mayor John Tory has been supportive of embracing Airbnb in the past, releasing a statement last month in which he said that the city has “an obligation” to respond to new emerging technology platforms and can’t just pretend that they “don’t exist.”
The Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA) said Thursday the regulations were a “major win for hotels in the City of Toronto.”
“Toronto’s hotel industry is pleased as this will eliminate the commercialization of the Airbnb’s business (and other platforms) in Toronto since it competes directly with the hotels,” the ORHMA said in a news release circulated Thursday night.