The city is turning to the public for feedback as they consider regulating short-term accommodation rental services like Airbnb.
In a news release issued Tuesday, the city says they’re looking for input on several key factors surrounding short-term rental services such as economic developing, tourism, taxation and housing availability and affordability.
Residents are invited to attend meetings tonight and on April 12 to share their views about the home-sharing services and are encouraged to fill out an online survey about the proposed regulation.
A staff report outlining the recommendations is expected to be a topic at an executive committee meeting sometime in June.
A recent poll by The Forum Research found that of 966 Toronto voters, 47 per cent of them want the service regulated.
Only 20 per cent of respondents opposed the regulation.
The poll also found that support for regulating Airbnb climbed among residents living downtown (51 per cent) and in Etobicoke (50 percent) but fell in Scarborough (39 per cent) and North York (46 per cent).
Recent numbers provided by Airbnb showed that 9,460 rooms or units in Toronto in 2015 were rented through the platform. That number now exceeds 10,000, Airbnb says.
But the rise in popularity of services like Airbnb has prompted Mayor John Tory to question whether it’s hurting the city’s supply of rental units, ultimately worsening the already scant affordable housing options.
Back in September of 2016, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office sparked concerns about how Airbnb affects the availability of rental housing in the city.
It found that only 13 per cent of Airbnb hosts in Toronto account for 37 per cent of the total listings by the service in the city.
In July, that same percentage of hosts accounted for 46 per cent of the total revenue Airbnb gained in Toronto.
According to website Rentseeker.ca, which populates average rents from real-time listings, the current average rental cost per month for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1,256. That number jumps to $1,496 for a two-bedroom and $1,652 for a three bedroom.
But homeowners say this is a great way to make extra cash in what is already an expensive housing market.
Kevin Makra founded Host Services Group in Toronto – a support service that offers property manage and concierge services to homeowners looking to make extra income on their property through services like Airbnb.
Makra, who also hosts his own home on Airbnb, says he welcomes regulation.
“I think to be regulated is to be recognized,” he told CP24 on Tuesday. “I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there. Hopefully at tonight’s meeting and moving forward we can get some ideas and explain how wonderful and how there’s so many enormous benefits to hosting in this great city.”
Makra says he believes most of the Torontonians hosting on Airbnb are doing so part-time and rely on the home-sharing to supplement their income.
“I can tell you that the majority of people that use Airbnb in Toronto, the large majority, are Torontonians. They’re people who use it when family comes to town, when they’re having their home renovated and need a place to stay, employers are using it for employees,” he said. “There’s a great need in this city for short term rentals and I believe if you’re a responsible host, you meet fascinating people from all over the world and from right here in our community.”
Spokesperson for Airbnb Toronto, Alex Dagg, agrees that regulation is the way forward.
Dagg said any stories circulating about negative incidents at residences being used as Airbnb spaces are a rarity.
“We have 10,000 hosts here in this city who share their home really four to five nights a month earning modest to supplemental income. The bad stories that people like to talk about are exceedingly rare on our platform and we work very hard every day on safety and security measures in our system,” Dagg said.
“Our hosts are incredible brand ambassadors to the city of Toronto and welcome people from all over the world. (They) are really happy to showcase their city as they work to earn some modest income to make ends meet in such an expensive city.”
Meanwhile, The Canadian Press reported Monday that average price of a detached home in Toronto broke the $1.5 million mark for the first time last month. At $1,573,622, the cost is 29.8 per cent higher than one year ago.
The average selling price of all homes in the GTA sat at around $875,983 in February, which is 27.7 per cent higher than the same time last year.
With files from the Canadian Press.