Is Airbnb exacerbating Torontos housing crisis?

The number of Airbnbs in Toronto that could be used as long-term rentals and help alleviate the city's housing.

The number of Airbnbs in Toronto that could be used as long-term rentals and help alleviate the city’s housing crisis has doubled since 2016.

According to a new report released this week by Fairbnb, a national coalition of hotel union workers, affordable housing advocates and condo residents, there are currently 6,500 entire homes in Toronto listed on Airbnb. That’s a 25 per cent increase in the last year alone and double the number of listings in 2016.

Thorben Wieditz, a researcher for Fairbnb, says many of those 6,500 listings are considered ghost hotels, which are defined as Airbnbs run by a host with two or more listings online.

There are people who are buying or renting dozens of condo units and then renting them out on platforms like Airbnb, Wieditz says in an interview with NOW.

In December 2017, city council approved new Airbnb regulations to prevent the proliferation of ghost hotels. Under the new regs, short-term rentals would only be allowed if they were in the hosts principal residence. You can also only rent out up to three bedrooms or your entire home for up to 180 days.

But last January, the rules were appealed and now await a hearing at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board) this August. In the meantime, the city is not enforcing the new rules.

Although Airbnb claims the platform is mostly made up of people who only rent out their homes from time to time, Wieditz says the majority of Airbnb revenue comes from hosts who essentially act as commercial operators. According to Fairbnb’s report, ghost hotels account for 72 per cent of Airbnb’s revenues in Toronto.

The report also found that in Toronto, the highest concentration of listings are in the downtown waterfront communities, where owners “can make more money on the short-term rental market than the long-term rental market,” says Wieditz. Some 88 per cent of all listings in these areas are for entire condo units.

The data in the report came from New York-based analyst Murray Cox, who runs the Inside Airbnb project, which posts Airbnb listings information for cities across the world.

We have been seeing Torontos housing supply being gobbled up by Airbnb for a number of years, says Geordie Dent of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations in a statement in response to Fairbnb’s study. Airbnb is consuming our housing supply faster than I can say ‘mortgage debt.’

But in an emailed statement to NOW, Airbnb public policy manager Alex Dagg said, “This report is based on faulty assumptions and poor research, and is yet another example of the well-resourced and clearly biased hotel lobby seeking to villainize families who are making a little extra income by sharing their homes.”

Dagg added that Airbnb wants to be regulated in Toronto and “looks forward to continuing our collaborative relationship with City of Toronto.”

Fairbnb is calling on the province to examine the impact of short-term rentals as part of its Housing Supply Action Plan. The group’s report concludes that the province should establish the regulations approved by Toronto council in December 2017.

The situation is getting worse for people to find homes and its being made worse by the fact that Airbnb bleeds our housing stock by thousands of units,” says Wieditz. “It’s a problem the province needs to recognize.”


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