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What is Vancouver doing with Airbnb, and what does it mean for Toronto?

All eyes are on the west coast city as discussion around possible regulation of short-term rental sites like Airbnb in Toronto heats up.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson revealed that city’s plan for dealing with the rise of short-term rental sites, Wednesday. If council approves the plan it will be the first such regulations of any major Canadian city.

AFP

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson revealed that city’s plan for dealing with the rise of short-term rental sites, Wednesday. If council approves the plan it will be the first such regulations of any major Canadian city.

Vancouver’s quest to regulate sites like Airbnb could serve as a blueprint for Toronto as the city grapples with the effects of short-term rentals on the housing market, experts say.

The west coast city is proposing bylaws that would ban so-called ghost hotels -- short-term rentals that people aren’t living in -- and require business licences for anyone using Airbnb.

Vacancy rates in Vancouver are at historic lows, and the move is an attempt to bring 1,000 rental units back onto the market, Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Wednesday.

Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Unite Here Local 75, which represents hospitality workers, applauded Vancouver’s proposal as a “great first step.”

Combined with their new vacancy tax, Wieditz, said Vancouver is “leading the charge” on making sure that rental units are not taken off the market for short-term stays.

Toronto, on the other hand is lagging behind not only Vancouver but also other cities across North America, he said.

A report on the topic goes to Toronto’s executive committee next month, but it’s not expected contain any regulatory suggestions.

Mayor John Tory’s office said the mayor “understands the growing importance of the issue in Toronto.” However, Tory has not said when a policy could be implemented, or if he even supports regulating sites like Airbnb.

In the interim, there are concerns short-term rentals are having an adverse effect on tenants and those in search of a place to rent.  

Metro recently wrote about a Toronto man fighting eviction because he believes the landlord intends to turn his apartment into an Airbnb listing.

Geordie Dent with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, said his organization receives a number of calls every week from people concerned they’re going to lose their home so it can be turned into a more profitable short-term listing.

“The landlord is telling them they’re going to turn the suite into an Airnb unit,” he said.

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