After months of recommendations and reports on how best to reign in Toronto’s short-term rental market, city council will vote Thursday on a suite of new rules that will dramatically change what hosts are allowed to offer up.
Hundreds are watching the debate from council chambers, with Airbnb hosts and supporters clad in pink shirts on one side of the public gallery and those aligned with Fairbnb — a group backed by the hospitality workers’ union that’s been pushing for regulations — dressed in white t-shirts on the other.
Council’s decision will severely limit how short-term rental hosts do business, leading a group that represents people listing dozens of short-term rentals to say that it will pose an “existential question” for their operations.
Meanwhile, those in favour of tighter regulations are hoping a crack down will put more affordable housing back onto the market.
Both Mayor John Tory and city councillors say the city needs to preserve affordable housing. Toronto’s rental vacancy rate has plunged below two per cent, and the debate falls one day after council approved emergency spending to tackle what many are calling a crisis in its homeless shelter system.
Rules won’t ban rentals, but do set limits
The city’s regulations won’t ban short-term rentals, defined as less than 28 days, but instead require those who operate them to attain a license.
Those hosts will also be limited to offering their primary residence — including three short-term rental rooms within a home, or the entire home. Those offering their entire home can only do so 180 days per calendar year.
However, Coun. Ana Bailao is also pushing a motion that would ban hosts from offering up lawful secondary suites, like basement apartments complete with kitchens and separate entrances.
Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, argues those are a key source of long-term rentals that needs to be preserved for that purpose.
But Coun. Gary Crawford appears poised to move a motion allowing them, arguing the city has no data to prove banning secondary suites will put them back on the long-term market.
Platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and others will have to pay a one-time $5,000 fee, as well as $1 per night booked.