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Monday, August 31, 2020

Toronto allows short-term rentals again but Airbnb listings are still dwindling

The number of Airbnb apartments in Toronto continues to trend significantly downward, even though the official ban on short-term rental apartments that the province set in April due to COVID-19 concerns has been  lifted for nearly two months. 

Some neighbourhoods that are extra notorious for vacation rentals, such as the dense pocket of towering condos at CityPlace, saw a staggering drop of 30 cent in listings this month compared to the pre-pandemic Airbnb heyday of December 2019 to January 2020.

Across the city, listings have been falling month-over-month since January, and are down 16.8 per cent to 23,524 as of mid-August, as per data from Inside Airbnb.

Meanwhile, the vacancy rates of apartments meant for actual residential tenants have gone up and rent prices are cooling for the first time in what feels like eons — a welcome, albeit strange development for a city long bemoaned for its ghost apartments, high rents and housing crisis.

The health crisis represented a massive blow to the industry, with short-term rental hosts worrying about a drastic loss in business to to travel restrictions and widespread caution around vacationing and leaving the house in general, even before the moratorium.

An increasing number of property owners have been converting their units into longer-term rentals to adapt, leading to fewer listings, an influx of new units on the market and lower rents.

The City has also vowed to tighten up on its rules and regulations around Airbnbs post-COVID, asking that hosts who rent out their homes for less than 28 days at a time to register as short-term rental operators.

Owners will also only be able to rent their units to tourists for  a maximum of 180 nights per year, and will have to pay a four per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) on a quarterly basis — all measures meant to ensure that people aren't buying up properties for the sole purpose of renting them out temporarily, and only listing their primary residences, as per existing guidelines.

"This is good news for Toronto residents and a step in the right direction when it comes to regulating short-term rentals and maintaining the peace and quiet of our neighbourhoods," Mayor John Tory said about the move last week.

"This system will provide crucial oversight of operators and ensure that they are held accountable."

There is also the fact that specific condo buildings have started enforcing their own rules around short-term rentals, up to outright banning them in the wake of partiesshootings and the pandemic.

With most people still extremely wary of hopping on a plane for a trip, the persistence of health and safety measures in public places and international travel still at an acute low, the future of Airbnb rentals is uncertain at best — certainly good news for tenants, but perhaps not for the city's travel and tourism industry.

by Becky Robertson via blogTO


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