How to ﬁx Toronto’s short-term rental problems in 2017
Neighbours, hotel owners and companies like Airbnb await city regulation strategy
03 January 2017
Wong-Tam has received many complaints about Airbnb listings in her ward
and is pushing city hall to regulate the popular home-sharing service.
From Rosedale "party houses" with bouncers at the door to drug-dealing
"mobile units of criminal activity," Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam has
heard countless complaints about Toronto's burgeoning short-term rental
And as her downtown ward has become a hotspot for short-term rentals,
the Ward 27 councillor has been pushing for the city to regulate the
recommendations to council's executive
committee in June 2017
The municipal licensing and standards division has begun studying how
to do that — and will make its recommendations to council's executive
committee in June 2017.
In the meantime, thousands of Toronto properties are being rented out
in an "entirely unregulated" market, and Wong-Tam said some of her
constituents aren't happy.
"It's very, very disruptive," Wong-Tam she said.
In Toronto's tony Rosedale neighbourhood, Wong-Tam says short-term
rentals are less frequent—but there's a problem with "party
houses" being rented out for special events.
"All of sudden you've got security guards, speaker systems, folks charging [cover] at the door," the councillor said.
And in areas where there are more high-rise buildings, Wong-Tam says
the growing number of short-term guests is changing the character of
some condo buildings.
"People are coming in and out of the building, nobody really knows who
they are," she said. "There isn't the same sense of neighbourly
Wong-Tam said she is even getting complaints about prostitution and
drug dealing taking place, creating what she calls "mobile units of
"The drug dealing can happen through Airbnb in a random condominium suite and then disappear and pop up somewhere else."
Problems 'incredibly rare'
Despite the complaints, Airbnb continues to be a hugely popular service
with roughly 8,600 hosts in Toronto. And problems, according to a
company spokesperson, are "incredibly rare."
"The overwhelming majority of Airbnb guests are respectful travellers," Alex Dagg said in a statement to CBC Toronto.
The company focuses on the financial boon it has been for thousands of
Airbnb hosts in Toronto by providing an "economic lifeline that helps
them pay the bills or even afford their first mortgage," the statement
While there's concern that Airbnb could be shrinking the long-term
rental supply, the company says 81 per cent of Toronto hosts are
renting their primary residence, "and are doing so a few nights each
month to earn modest, supplemental income."
'Illegal hotel rooms'
But hotel owners say that income comes at their expense.
"They're running in direct competition with us," Terry Mundell, the
president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, said in an
Mundell bluntly calls Airbnb listings "illegal hotel rooms".
And he said they have an unfair advantage over their legal
counterparts; Airbnb hosts can undercut hotels on price, because
they don't pay the HST or corporate business taxes.
Airbnb hosts can also operate in residential neighbourhoods, but hotels aren't permitted because of zoning restrictions.
Mundell, however, said he doesn't have a problem with home-sharing—it just needs to be regulated, he said.
"Regulate it, zone it, tax it and we'll compete."
Regulation and the Uber experience
The Airbnb regulation problem for Toronto is a complex one, but the
person in charge of finding the solution is hoping her recent
experience will make it easier.
As the executive director of the city's municipal licensing and
standards divisions, Tracey Cook navigated city hall through the
tumultuous process of regulating Uber, another enormously popular but
disruptive technological change that shook up a major industry.
"Uber was quite an initiative, a lot of uproar. I'm hoping the Airbnb
file will be considerably less than that," Cook said in an interview
with CBC Toronto.
executive director of municipal licensing and standards division, will
table proposed regulations for Airbnb in June 2017. (CBC)
During that shakeup, the city also made changes to the rules that
governed the taxi industry, something Cook said could happen with its
Airbnb report. The city is also currently exploring a hotel tax that
could also be applied to short-term rentals as part of the municipal
The regulatory framework city staff will propose could include changes
to zoning bylaws or licensing Airbnb hosts, but Cook said it's still
too early to give any hints about exactly where they're heading.
public meetings are planned
Consultation with stakeholders and public meetings are planned for the new year.
"Our goal is to speak to as many of these groups as we can and get a sense of the goods, the bads and uglies," Cook said.
Cook also said staff will also review regulations that other cities
have imposed on Airbnb to see whether similar rules could work in
"We have the benefit of not being the first."