MoneyAirbnb hosts, short-term rental critics facing off over regulations at appeal hearing
Airbnb quietly shut down a top host amid scathing reviews, but hundreds of guests were left to stay with him
After 'AJ' was suspended, dozens of his listings returned under new accounts with fake profile pics
A years-long battle over how to regulate short-term rentals in Toronto is continuing this week at the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), with some arguing the city's proposed rules are a "deflection" from policymakers' attempts to fix an ongoing affordable housing shortage.
The regulations, which focus on the short-term rentals available through companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo, were approved by council in 2018. Multiple hosts appealed the rules before they could be put into place.
RCMP IDs CRA scam suspects, Airbnb shuts down top host: CBC's Marketplace consumer cheat sheet
CBC's Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need from the week, including the RCMP's CRA phone scam probe, a top Airbnb host gets shut down, WestJet facing a federal transportation inquiry.
At the start of the appeal proceedings on Monday, city lawyer Sarah O'Connor stressed how the popular practice of renting out units short-term raises multiple challenges for the city, from land use conflicts, to the destabilization of established residential neighbourhoods, to affordable housing issues.
"Regulating short-term rentals will increase housing affordability and accessibility, and we think with Toronto's housing crisis, that is needed right now," noted lawyer Monica Poremba, who is representing Fairbnb Canada, a national coalition calling for regulations around home-sharing.
A 2019 report from the organization — which has been dubbed a hotel industry lobbying group by its critics — suggested around 6,500 homes could be added to Toronto's housing market if Airbnb were to voluntarily comply with the proposed rules.
Shaughnessy Airbnb party mansion 'a hotel across the street,' says angry neighbour
For nearly a year now, Thomas Ehlen has been fed up with a pattern he claims to see regularly. By Friday, he says the house across the street from him fills up with visitors — as many as 20 at a time — who arrive by cab or sometimes even by bus. Several days later, the house empties out midweek and the cleaners go in. Repeat. The 10-bedroom, $8.3-million Shaughnessy mansion at 1569 West 35th Ave. in Vancouver is open for business on Airbnb , and it’s really popular. It has a 50-foot heated pool, a home theatre, two fireplaces and a reputation for being sparkling clean. Its “superhost,” Allen, is responsive and well-liked, according to his reviews.
Those rules include restricting rentals to the owner's principal residence, and would require hosts to register with the city and pay a four per cent municipal accommodation tax. The proposed regulations would also allow an entire primary residence to be rented out when an owner or long-term tenant is away, up to 180 nights each year.
But critics say the proposals won't fix Toronto's housing crunch, with thousands more units needed on an annual basis beyond what could be generated by turning short-term rental units into conventional housing options.
The changes are "a deflection of the city's responsibility for its own failure to invest in purpose-built rental housing," said Sarah Corman, a lawyer representing one of the appellants, in her opening remarks.
What the city needs is affordable housing, not the higher-end condo units which represent many short-term rentals, she added.
Could new Airbnb rules discourage legal secondary suites?
Desiree Narciso bought her late-1800s house in 1992. She and her family live on the second and third storeys. The first floor is rented to a long-term tenant for $2,700 a month and the basement operates as an Airbnb that can be used as one apartment or separated into two units that rent for between $90 and $160 a night each. The rental income has helped Narciso recover from devastating flooding and structural problems that have forced her to practically rebuild the place in recent years, she told a provincial tribunal that is hearing an appeal of the city’s approved short-term rental accommodations.
Short-term rentals have 'corrosive' effect
The debate is also playing out outside the tribunal, including in Kensington Market, where residents say they're battling evictions from landlords hoping to turn units into short-term rentals.
Matthew Toth, who has lived in the popular tourist destination for five years, said one landlord bought multiple buildings in the neighbourhood and tried to force residents out — leaving what many call "ghost hotels," where units are often left empty.
"I've seen the corrosive effect it can have on a whole block of buildings, where you don't really have neighbours," he said.
The practice also leaves evicted tenants struggling to find new, affordable places to live, Toth added.
Many hosts, meanwhile, say listing their units online is their way of handling soaring housing costs.
Airbnbs threaten Toronto’s quality of life
Toronto’s real estate regulations are the slowly boiling water, and we are the frog. Our bylaws governing short-term rentals have shot up the news cycle in the past few days. As the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) sits behind closed doors, Torontonians have a bigger decision to make: What kind of city do we want to live in and build together? It’s been humming as a low-grade threat in the minds of city dwellers. Most of us have heard about friends and neighbours having to move because of increasingly unaffordable rent or nightmarish landlords, while we see more and more vacant buildings and communities. The Toronto we know and love is being hollowed out.
Scarborough resident Paul Nedoszytko was among those gathered to hear the appeal hearing, and said his short-term rental helps him afford his home.
An Airbnb host for the last six years, Nedoszytko rents out a basement unit in the house he's lived in for more than three decades. Though he long rented to traditional long-term tenants, he said his switch to the short-term market was sparked by one "extremely bad incident" with a problematic tenant, involving damage to his car and police visits to his home.
"Most long-term tenants are responsible," he added. "And there's a need for that."
Still, Nedoszytko doesn't plan on ever making the switch back. He also stressed his unit offers a much-needed service beyond rentals for tourists, such as a space to live for workers juggling business trips or commutes between cities.
Now, Nedoszytko's ultimate hope is that the city goes back to the drawing board when it comes to the regulations.
Hosts feel regulations are 'infringement on their rights'
But according to city officials, the proposed rules were drafted based on extensive consultation, including surveys, public meetings and focus groups with stakeholders.
Airbnb — one of the biggest players in the short-term rental market — participated throughout that process, along with many hosts.
"It's clear our hosts feel the final regulations represent an infringement on their rights to share the space within the house where they live and we firmly support their right to appeal at the LPAT," Airbnb spokesperson Alex Dagg said in a statement provided to CBC Toronto on Monday.
"We are hopeful that the board will hear their concerns and put forward recommendations that ensure any regulations balance housing availability concerns with the right of everyday people to share their homes."
Other Canadian cities are ahead of Toronto in implementing regulations; Montreal has both provincial and city regulations on who can operate a short-term rental, as well as restrictions on neighbourhoods in which they're allowed, while Vancouver has regulations that apply to the entire city, and requires hosts to have a business licence.
Toronto's LPAT hearing continues throughout the week.
Bonavista cuts off services for Airbnb operators with unpaid tax bills.
The Town of Bonavista is getting tougher in its attempts to collect taxes from Airbnbs popping up in the popular tourist destination. The mayor of Bonavista says said the town is taxing Airbnbs at the town's business rate, using the property's assessed value, to create a level playing field with owners of accommodations that are registered as businesses. "They are not registered businesses so it's kind of hard to go after them when you don't know their revenue and the value of their business so we have had to come up with our own formula," said John Norman.
June 2018 | Host Q&A | Airbnb
On June 27th, Brian Chesky, CEO and Head of Community of Airbnb and new executive Greg Greeley, answered questions from the host community at the ...
09/06/18 Zoning Appeals Board Meeting
Coverage of the Board of Zoning Appeals Meeting held at the MNPS meeting room on Bransford Avenue on September 6, 2018.