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Toronto considering regulating Airbnb rentals

Faiza Amin | posted Thursday, Oct 27th, 2016

The City of Toronto is taking steps to regulate the short-term rental market, including companies like Airbnb.

A vote passed for staff to report back with proposed regulations at Wednesday’s executive committee meeting.

“I view this with a sense of some concern, I won’t say urgency yet, but it’s rising in terms of the temperature,” Mayor John Tory said.

Staff will now begin the process of researching and consulting with residents and stakeholders, and will have until spring 2017 to present the proposed regulations. They will have to determine what regulations will apply, who they’ll apply to, and have a proper plan of enforcement in place.

“I think our obligation with Airbnb is that they’re brought into the regulatory fold, that it’s done in a responsible way that addresses the real problems,” the mayor added.

Nearly 10,000 Airbnb rooms were rented out last year alone, double the amount since 2014, according to the report presented Wednesday. Representatives from Airbnb Canada also told the committee to consider the economic impacts the company alone has had on the city.

“We’ve made a study that says guests coming here, have spent about $75 million in Toronto restaurants,” said Alex Dagg, public policy manager with Airbnb Canada.

Dagg was one of nearly a dozen speakers who made presentations to the committee. Following her speech, members from the hotel industry expressed concern over the lack of regulations policing short-term rental companies. That industry argued that companies like Airbnb are competing unfairly, because they aren’t faced with the same rules, regulations and taxes as the hotel industry.

“If you’re talking about commercial tax, you can’t compare the Sheraton Centre with a home or a resident’s who’s sharing their primary home from time to time,” Dagg countered. “Those aren’t the same.”

Housing and anti-poverty advocates also argued for more regulation, saying the short-term rental market is having an impact on affordable housing in Toronto.

Last month, Vancouver unveiled a plan that would only allow rentals lasting fewer than 30 days to happen in a home that’s also someone’s principle residence.  Tory has asked the city to come back with regulations similar to those recently implemented in other cities in Canada and the United States.

Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez was present at Wednesday’s meeting. In his presentation, he told the committee how regulations contributed to the betterment of his city.

“It just made it a level playing field, because what was happening before, is we had kind of a black market,” Vazquez told CityNews. “These folks were kicking up an operation without paying a business tax or complying with other regulations a hotel would have.”

When asked how regulations have changed the industry in the Californian city, Vazquez explained there are fewer hosts participating in short-term rentals after rules were put in place, going from 1,700 to 1,000.

The Santa Monica mayor says there are some challenges that his city is facing since introducing regulations, including two pending lawsuits; one from a home owner who claims the city is infringing on rights; the other from Airbnb.


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