News / Toronto

Airbnb data in Ontario comforting to some, 'alarming' to others

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam has been waiting for rules around divisive short-term rentals for nearly a year

Colin Gillies stands in front of his west-end property he rents out on his third floor. Colin has been an Airbnb host three years since retirement.

Torstar News Service

Colin Gillies stands in front of his west-end property he rents out on his third floor. Colin has been an Airbnb host three years since retirement.

We have the numbers. Now we need action.

That was the call Wednesday from Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam as Airbnb outlined the size and scope of the company’s short-term rentals in Toronto.

The data — the first of its kind released by the company — shows there are 8,600 so-called “hosts” making rooms, houses, condos and apartments available in the city. It accounts for more than 50 per cent of the hosts across Ontario.

Wong-Tam called the figures “alarming,” saying the city should use them to move “further” and “faster” on adopting regulations for the industry.

It’s been almost a year since Wong-Tam proposed regulations. The first report is due back to the municipal licensing and standards committee next month. But, instead of outlining options, it will only deal with how to establish a regulatory framework.

Actual rules will only come after further discussion, which, of course, will take more time.

“It just shows you how slow the city is responding to, what to me, was a simple request,” Wong-Tam said.

In the meantime, concerns continue to grow about Airbnb’s impact on affordable housing, crime and what Wong-Tam called the “demolition” of hotels. 

Alex Dagg, public policy manager for Airbnb Canada, reconfirmed Wednesday that the company is open to “reasonable” discussions about regulating the industry.

Counter to concerns from Wong-Tam, and others, Dagg said the new data “tells the story of who the Airbnb community is in Toronto: People primarily sharing their own homes, sharing less than 90 days per year and earning less than $4,000 typical income.

“That’s really an affordable housing strategy for the families that are using this platform,” she added.

Tom Slee, a member of the Fairbnb coalition that is advocating for regulation, called the report’s numbers “misleading”

“They always talk about the median host, the typical host, and I think that gives a inaccurate picture of the effect on the community,” he said.

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