airbnb toronto

Nearly half of Airbnbs in Toronto have turned into normal apartments

The pandemic has not been kind to many industries, with things like travel and tourism being hit particularly hard, which has upended platforms like Airbnb and the hosts that operate on it.

Owners of short-term rentals began to sweat early last year before Ontario even declared a state of emergency and locked everything down, citing tons of cancellations and fears that the extra income that many had come to rely on would no longer be coming in.

And, inevitably, such vacation rentals were prohibited in Toronto in April as the health crisis worsened — but there was little sympathy for those who had enough capital to own a property solely for Airbnbing out for cash.

Even before the ban came into place, more and more short-term rentals in the city were popping up on the long-term rental market, being converted to actual apartments for residents who live here in owners' last-ditch attempts to recoup their losses.

Though the ban was eventually lifted later last year only to be reintroduced in the fall, available listings had plummeted from normal levels, and additional rules were on the horizon that would make operating a short-term rental even less appealing.

Those rules, which came into effect on Jan. 1, included the fact that Airbnbs hosts could only rent out their primary residences — no more investment properties or ghost hotels — and had to formally register their property as a short-term vacation rental and also pay a four per cent municipal accommodation tax on revenues.

The city also vowed to be strict with enforcement, penalizing operators with fines up to a staggering $100,000 if convicted in court, though tickets for individual offences range from $300 to $1,000. 

All of this explains why 42 per cent of units that were commercial short-term rentals pre-COVID are now back on the normal rental market, according to a new report from City staffers.

The document details that as of May 2021, there are only 3,349 registered short-term rental operators, which pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of Toronto listings that used to be on apps like Airbnb.

But there are still those who flout the rules to rent out their homes illegally, which may be thousands of people if data from September is anything to go by. Rental companies like Airbnb, though, now have a duty to remove illicit listings or else potentially face punishment themselves.

Though the fact that more short-term rentals are being offered up to locals longer-term is certainly great news for tenants who are still reaping the benefits of higher vacancy rates and lower rent prices spurred by COVID-19, these former Airbnb units tend to be priced higher than typical apartments, "as much as 11.6% more than average market rents," the report says.

The news also doesn't bode well for the tourism industry, though things will certainly be ramping up again once we're all able to get back to travelling — which will likely end up changing the data on Airbnb listings in the city.

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