Today, city council voted in favor of placing restrictions on AirBNB short-term rentals, partly to make AirBNB legal, and partly to ease restrictions on an overcrowded and near capacity rental system in the city. Similar to how Toronto treated Uber, they’re giving AirBNB the same treatment.
But why? Why does Toronto hate AirBNB? Why do they hate Uber? Do we have some agenda against the sharing economy?
Granted, the ride-sharing, home-sharing, gig-sharing economies have taken many places by storm, and Toronto has been hit by them hard. Uber caused the taxi industry to take a hard fight against them, mostly for faulty reasons (“we’ve been here forever and we don’t want to adapt, therefore make these evil people illegal”). Instead of choosing to accept competition and work on making yourself better, the taxi industry chose to fight, stage completely inane protests that did nothing to help their cause, and decided to remain stagnant in an industry that is growing and expanding with new technology.
All this fighting led to Toronto eventually creating bylaws to a) appease both Uber and the taxi industry and b) make Uber legal in the city. And now we’re seeing this again with AirBNB.
Yes, affordable rental properties in the city are hard to come by, and yes, homeowners using AirBNB are a big cause of that. But why is this an issue? If I buy a house, and have the means to buy a second property with the intent of using it as a short-term rental, why is this a bad thing? If someone pays for a property, and maintains the property, should they not be allowed to rent it to whomever they like? Why do we need laws that protect rental units for people who reside within the city? Do we need to somehow “protect” those looking for rentals, and not bother with tourists or other out-of-towners?
It’s a ridiculous argument, and the city should not be putting such restrictions.
People who want to rent out their place with AirBNB (and I presume any future companies) must now:
- Live in the same residence as the room they want to rent out (meaning it’s their primary residence)
- Restrict short-term rentals to 28 days or less
- Restrict entire home rentals to 180 days (total) over a one year period
- Will no longer be able to list “secondary suites” on AirBNB, such as a basement apartment with a separate entrance
- Keep records of everything you’re doing on AirBNB
- Must pay $50/year to the city for a “license” to list your unit on AirBNB; now how ridiculous is that? You’re paying a license to the city that has no interest, stake, or other form of ownership in AirBNB
All of this is in response to the city of Toronto having a 1.6% vacancy rate for rental properties. (https://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/kb/docs/articles/city-planning/strategic-initiatives,-policy-and-analysis/research-and-information/research-reports/vacancy-rate-in-toronto.html)
This 1.6 vacancy rate is the result of people buying up properties, and choosing to rent them out. Some of these — possibly many of these — are from foreign buyers.
Now, why doesn’t the city go after the foreign buyers? Why not attempt to change laws that prohibit you from buying a property if you don’t live in the country as your primary residence? Why go after the homeowners, the ones who have spent time and money to buy a property, pay tax on that property, contributing to the city?
There are big fish and there are little fish. Toronto has opted to go after the little fish in this instance, and it’s a bad decision all around.