Airbnb changes coming?

Politicians in Toronto will be scrutinizing proposed rules for short-term rentals this week that could spell major changes for those who offer secondary residences for rent on platforms like Airbnb.

Among the raft of regulations going before city councillors is a rule that would ban short-term rentals of homes that aren't the landlord's primary dwelling.

Some tenants are heralding the proposed regulations as much needed in a city grappling with high rents and low vacancy rates, while those who offer secondary residences on home-sharing platforms like Airbnb argue the rules would be punitive.

Under rules put forward by city staff, short-term rentals of 28 days or less would be allowed in up to three rooms of any home in Toronto as long as they are in the landlord's "principal residence."

The original proposal allowed landlords to use separate units in a principal residence — like a basement apartment — for short-term rentals but the city's planning committee rejected that aspect of the plan last month.

If the rules are approved, the city would create a registry of short-term rental landlords who would have to declare that their rental property was their principle residence and pay an annual fee of $50.

The proposed regulations are being hailed as a necessary step by Torontonians who say they're struggling to find affordable or available rental properties in the city.

Around 10,800 Airbnbs were rented out in Toronto in 2016, the company said. Airbnb estimates that over three quarters of their Toronto landlords are renting out space in their principle residence.

More than half of all Airbnb listings are in the city's downtown, and the vast majority — over 80 per cent — accept only short-term bookings, the company said.

Fairbnb, a coalition founded by a Toronto-area hospitality workers' union to advocate for Airbnb legislation, says city hall must ensure that rental units are preserved for long-term renters, not vacation rentals.

"We have no problem with the typical Airbnb host," spokesman Thorben Wieditz said. "We have a problem with those people that lease or buy properties as investments and turn them into 'ghost hotels ... Those are the properties that not only eliminate rental properties (but) drive up rental costs."

Some Airbnb hosts, however, take issue with Toronto's proposed rules.

Ajay Joshi, who hosts five Toronto condo units on Airbnb, said the proposed regulations would create more business for hotels because fewer Airbnbs would be available, while causing financial hardship for short-term rental landlords like him.

Makra declined to say how much he earns through Airbnb, but said it is, on average, about $1,000-$1,500 more per month than he was earning by renting the condo out long term.

He is not opposed to the city regulating Airbnb, but is wary of the proposed restrictions.

The debate in Toronto comes after Vancouver city councillors approved rules last month that prohibit Airbnb and other short-term rental hosts from listing homes that are not their principal residence, including any secondary suites on their property.

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