Toronto’s vacancy rate could approach a “healthy” level of three per cent if the thousands of entire-home listings on Airbnb that appear to be in contravention of new city regulations were converted into more permanent housing, a new report from a coalition of housing advocates and hotel industry associations says.

The group Fairbnb conducted an analysis of all Toronto listings on the short term rental platform in January and found that more than 9,700 of them appeared to be in contravention of new city regulations, which were upheld by a provincial tribunal in November but are not yet being enforced.

The regulations prohibit entire homes from being rented out for more than 180 days a year and will also stipulate that only primary residences can be made available on short-term rental platforms.

In its report, Fairbnb said that there were 7,354 entire home listings on Airbnb in January that appeared to be in contravention of the new regulations, which represents a 13.5 per cent increase from a similar analysis conducted last year.

The group said that if even half of those residences were added to the rental market, the city’s vacancy rate would go from 1.3 per cent to two per cent. If all of the non-complaint listings were added to the market, meanwhile, the report said that the city’s vacancy rate “could approach a healthy rate of three per cent.”

"These homes they were built to house people. We permitted them at the city and developers built them to house people. And instead 7,354 entire homes are being used as ghost hotels and party suites,” Spadina-Fort York Coun. Joe Cressy said during a news conference at city hall on Thursday morning.

Airbnb disputes findings

It should be noted that Airbnb is disputing the findings, which it says relied on automated data scrapping by a third party that could lead to confusion, like in situations where an operator is deemed to have “multiple listings” when they are just “sharing two guests rooms in their home.”

In a statement provided to CP24, Airbnb spokesperson Alexandra Dagg said that “Fairbnb is yet again manipulating inaccurate data to protect the bottom line of their hotel industry benefactors,”

The coalition, however, said in its report that it used “the city’s regulatory lens to identify all non-compliant listings by using the most current data available” and only flagged listings meeting the following criteria:

  • Entire home listings rented out more than 180 days a year;
  • Entire home listings rented out by hosts with two or more entire homes for rent
  • Listings by hosts who rent out more than 3 private rooms.

“We won’t tire reminding Airbnb of its impact on Toronto’s housing market,” Fairbnb researched Thorben Wieditz said in a press release. “Our research shows just how effective Airbnb is in converting much needed housing stock into ghost hotels who drive health and safety risks deep into our residential communities.”

The new short-term regulations were approved by city council in January, 2018 but were put on hold when landlords challenged them at the Ontario Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The tribunal ruled in the city’s favour ion November, though enforcement of the bylaws won’t actually begin until after the city begins a process of registering short-term rental operators sometime this spring.

In its report, Fairbnb said that it believes that as much as 74 per cent of Airbnb’s Toronto revenues are generated by listings that appear to be in contravention of the new regulations.

The coalition said that the problem is particularly acute in the waterfront area, where roughly 34 per cent of all non-compliant listings were found.

“In January 2020, we estimate over half (57.8%) of the Airbnb listings in the Waterfront do not comply with the city’s regulations. The vast majority of these –2,495 out of 2,532 listings - are entire home listings. The Waterfront neighbourhood also sees a great deal of activity by multi-listing hosts who buy, lease or otherwise stockpile multiple homes for Airbnb use,” the report notes.

Airbnb did announce earlier this month that it would introduce new regulations in Canada that would ban most guests under the age of 25 from booking entire homes.The announcement was made in the wake of a deadly shooting at a downtown Toronto condo that was being rented out as an Airbnb.