How is the proliferation of short-term rentals impacting Toronto's housing supply and the character of residential neighbourhoods, and what should be done about it? To help answer those questions, and draft regulatory policies to govern services like Airbnb, the City of Toronto has announced two public consultations, to be held on March 28th and April 20th.

According to today's news release, the City is now "considering regulations for short-term rental of accommodation," defined by tenancies of 30 days or less, which are now typically facilitated by businesses like Airbnb, Homeaway and VRBO. "Key areas of discussion include quality of life (income/noise/safety), housing availability and affordability, economic development and tourism, and taxation."

  • March 28th's meeting will be held at the North York Civic Centre, at 5100 Yonge Street, from 6:30 - 8:30 PM.
  • April 12th's meeting will be held at Committee Room 2 in Toronto City Hall (100 Queen West), also taking place from 6:30 - 8:30 pm)

The April 12th consultation will also be live-streamed via YouTube, with the link set to be available through the City's Official Channel. Complementing the consultations, an online survey will be made available in the coming days. Public input collected through the meetings and survey responses will help guide a set of recommendations made by City Staff, with a policy report expected to be delivered to the Executive Committee in June.

What do services like Airbnb mean for housing in Toronto? image by Jack LandauWhat do services like Airbnb mean for housing in Toronto? image by Jack Landau

The proliferation of services like Airbnb has proved contentious throughout many cities, particularly large metropolitan areas (like Toronto) where crises of housing affordability are arguably further strained by the adaptation of long-term housing supply into short-term, hotel-style accommodations. Past the somewhat utopian—and perhaps naïve—rhetoric of the sharing economy, unregulated and untaxed services like Airbnb can become "an unregulated commercial enterprise that takes much-needed rental housing off the market," according to Toronto's Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.

On the other hand, the short-term rental accommodations made possible by Airbnb and similar online hospitality services can generate revenue from underused spaces, bringing additional income to homeowners while providing new lodging options—and spillovers of economic activity—in underserved areas. It's a controversial topic, particularly in a city where a crisis of housing affordability—underlined by quickly rising prices—is proving hugely challenging as rents rise and waitlists for subsidized housing grow. 

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A full copy of the City's release is available here, with more information about the upcoming survey provided via the Municipal Licensing & Standards website