Money1 year into regulations, Vancouver considers 3,066 homes on Airbnb a success story
Rise of ghost hotels casts pall over Toronto rental market
Toronto’s housing crisis is being fuelled by the emergence of “ghost hotels” — profitable, short-term rentals posted on websites like Airbnb that are replacing long-term rental housing — a Toronto Star/Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy investigation has found. While Airbnb markets itself as a way for individuals to rent their homes when they’re away, there are more than 1,700 Airbnb usernames in Toronto listing more than one entire property for rent — an indication they are either commercial property management operators or enterprising individuals becoming de facto landlords, an analysis of data from the independent
Last year, a small Vancouver home at 2854 West 38th Avenue was sold for $2.8 million.
Ever since, the next-door neighbour has noticed a few changes at the 88-year-old property, with its barren lawn, overstuffed mailbox and key deposit box on the front door.
"There's nobody living in the house, so it's being used as an Airbnb," Neela Sunga said.
"This time of year they're coming in intermittently, but we're quite concerned about summertime when it'll be obviously very busy … We don't even know who we would complain to if there was an issue."
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Dennis Halstead says he's not a fentanyl trafficker — he's just a landlord who made the mistake of renting a townhouse to drug dealers. But he's spent the last four years defending himself against allegations of running a multi-million-dollar drug operation. That ended earlier this year when all criminal charges against him were dismissed after a judge said Vancouver police officers had committed "serious breaches" of his charter rights during their investigation, nicknamed Project Trooper. And yet, because his file was referred to B.C.
The property was one of 3,066 listed on Airbnb as an "entire home" in Vancouver on April 10. That accounts for approximately one per cent of all private dwellings in the municipality, according to a CBC News analysis of listings.
After an inquiry from CBC News, the listing was removed — along with another property from the same host, a mansion in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood that sold for $12.6 million in 2017.
Kathryn Holm, Vancouver's chief licensing inspector, says the city'sthat were introduced just over a year ago to try to improve the city's vacancy rates are working "very well."
However, the numbers can tell two different stories.
Multi-hosts and total listings down
Vancouver requires all short-term rental hosts to get a business licence, and they can only post a property if it's their primary residence.
1 in 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown listed on Airbnb, analysis finds
One out of every 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown was listed for rent on the website Airbnb, according to an analysis of the site by CBC News. CBC News captured listings on the site for 17 Canadian cities on Apr. 10. The 331 listings captured for Charlottetown represent 1.93 per cent of all private dwellings in the city. That's the second-highest proportion among all the cities included in the analysis. Whistler was highest at 18 per cent. David Wachsmuth, a professor with the School of Urban Planning at McGill University, has been studying the short-term rental industry.
In theory, it means entire homes can only be available if the regular residents are temporarily away.
And since the city began enforcing the rules in September, the number of listings in Vancouver has decreased by about 40 per cent.
According to a previous analysis from AirDNA, a company that looks at Airbnb listings data, the total number of nights available to book properties has gone down by about half from its peak.
In addition, 32 per cent of listings are managed by a "host" with multiple properties in Vancouver, but it's the lowest proportion of any of the 17 Canadian municipalities measured by CBC.
"It does seem like it's moving in the right direction," said Holm.
Airbnb Canada spokesperson Alex Dagg said it shows the company's partnership with Vancouver, which includes quarterly data sharing, is working.
"I think the city's really smart about housing and trying to make progress with their bylaw," she said.
311 complaints about short-term rentals have skyrocketed in Toronto
The Ice Condos tops the list of addresses with the most 311 complaints about short-term rentals in Toronto, according to eight years of data obtained by CBC News from the city.
"There's a learning curve for our host community. I think there's a bit of saying, 'Wow, this is serious.'"
Long time to prosecute
But there is plenty Airbnb critics can point to as evidence the platform is still having anon the city's vacancy rates.
Approximately one of every 40 condos downtown is posted on Airbnb. There are nearly 100 Vancouver mansions (advertising room for at least 10 people) on the site.
Many of them are likely complying with all of the city's rules. But when asked about eight specific properties that seemed at first blush to be skirting the rules, the City of Vancouver said seven of them were under investigation.
"The city has to be more proactive and the city has to get Airbnb on board with," said Rohana Rezel, a housing advocate who has tracked listings.
He argues that the city could force Airbnb to take a greater responsibility for the postings on its site, and the city could move faster when it receives complaints about a specific property.
Airbnb's Alex Dagg said it's the city's obligation to enforce the rules, but its agreement with Airbnb provides the necessary tools.
How Toronto's proposed short-term rental regulations compare to other cities
While the regulations in Vancouver and Montreal are aimed at returning homes or units to the rental market, their effectiveness remains in question. Recent data obtained by CBC News has shed a light on how well enforcement is working. At least one expert says neither city has fully addressed the issue, and says without proper data from companies like Airbnb, they won't. What Toronto wants The rules proposed by the City of Toronto define "short-term" as less than 28 days. It wants to restrict short-term rentals to primary residences — in other words, you can only list the home you live in on sites like Airbnb.
Holm said the city wants to gather plenty of evidence before taking action against people suspected to be violating the law.
"With most the most egregious operators, it takes time to escalate the file through the court system," she said.
"But we are actively pursuing enforcement files on those cases that were identified."
As for Sunga? While she'll be happy if the property next door stays off Airbnb for good, she says the city could react faster.
"I appreciate that it's a hard one for the city to follow up on. But it's a big problem in a city where there's zero vacancy ... there should not be a hotel next door to me."
METHODOLOGY: How did CBC analyze neighbourhoods and Airbnb listings?
CBC monitored and collected the price, number of reviews, star rating and geolocation of all listings advertising an entire home or suite that appeared on Airbnb's website on April 10, 2019 for 17 Canadian towns and cities. A minority of listings might be duplicates of the same property created by the same host as a marketing strategy.
For six major cities, including Vancouver, a neighbourhood breakdown was also conducted. Each of the six cities provided CBC with their custom "Neighbourhood Profile" and current neighbourhood boundaries.
CBC then used the total number of private dwellings, which include both occupied and unoccupied homes, to estimate the percentage of homes listed on Airbnb in each neighbourhood. In Vancouver, these numbers came from the 2016 census.
This Man’s Hilarious Viral AirBnB Story Is Every Traveler’s Worst Nightmare.
When Ben Speller booked a "clean room with a private bathroom" in Amsterdam on AirBnB, he did not expect to arrive to find a shipping container.