Downtown councillor calls on Airbnb to de-list so-called ‘ghost hotels’ after shots fired into neighbouring condo
Published Wednesday, October 14, 2020 12:41PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 14, 2020 12:59PM EDT
A downtown city councillor is calling on Airbnb to delist so-called “ghost hotels” after two bullets were fired through the wall of a York Street condominium unit that neighbours say was being used a short-term rental.
The shooting happened inside a condo unit in a building near York Street and Bremner Boulevard just before 3 a.m. on Tuesday.
In an interview with CP24 on Wednesday, the man who lives next door said that he was asleep at the time and was awoken by a loud banging noise. He then found bullets lodged in a picture frame and the door belonging to his dryer.
“I feel lucky to be alive,” Lucas Timmons said. “I don’t know if I have fully come to terms with it because it is pretty scary. You know, I have never been shot at or near before.”
Police have not confirmed that the unit where the shooting took place was being operated as a short-term rental, though Timmons and other neighbours have said that was the case.
In an interview with CP24 on Wednesday morning, Spadina-Fort York Coun. Joe Cressy said that there are currently an estimated 7,000 properties listed on Airbnb, which do not comply with city bylaws.
He said that many of those units are so-called ghost hotels which are being rented out year-round, despite a city bylaw which stipulates that landlords can only rent out their primary residence on a short-term basis and can only do so for a maximum of 180 nights a year.
“What you are not allowed to do, which is what we are seeing throughout the city and especially in the downtown, is investors purchasing housing units in condos, five, ten or 15 units, and turning those into these ghost hotels where we often see parties and trouble associated with them,” Cressy said. “So we desperately need the short term rental operators like Airbnb to delist these properties that don’t comply. They have the power to do this and they should do it today.”
10 shootings over last four years
Cressy said that there have been 10 shootings over the last four years in condominium units that were being operated as a short-term rental at the time.
He said that while he has had recent conversations with municipal licensing and standards staff about stepping up enforcement of the short-term rental bylaw, the “unfortunate reality” is that the “city cannot enforce its way to a solution.”
“This shouldn’t be a weekend game of whack a mole where you are trying to stop the latest party suite from happening,” he said. “What truly will solve this is if we have a true partnership and collaboration from Airbnb and the other operators.”
City council adopted a series of new regulations for short-term rentals back in January 2018 but the bylaw was immediately challenged in court by a group of landlords and was never actually enforced.
The rules, however, were later upheld by the Local Planning and Appeal Tribunal and in September the city began requiring all short-term rental operators to register online as part of an effort to finally begin enforcing the regulations.
In his interview with CP24, Cressy said that the issue has been a long-simmering one in Toronto and that “residents who are being woken up every weekend and at times being woken up to gunshots should expect better and should demand better.”
“I am not going to stop calling on these companies like Airbnb to put the people in this city ahead of their profits,” he said.
It should be noted that Airbnb has previously banned people under the age of 25 from renting out entire homes and in September it removed 40 Ontario properties from its platform as part of “a party house crackdown.”