Airbnb, Toronto, Toronto Star discussed on The Big Story

The Big Story


That's called a ghost hotel and nobody except the people who make money from these things want them to exist. In the city city council has even taken steps to prevent them steps that were taken more than two years ago and still have yet to come into effect. So in the meantime at the intersection of these two problems tragedy. Is this enough to shame the city into into action is it enough to shame AIRBNB and two new regulations. We're about to find out UH Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is the big story Jennifer Peguero of the Toronto Star. The perfect person to talk to today. She is currently a city hall reporter and previously a crime reporter Jennifer eight hundred. Why don't you I For people who don't live in Toronto for aren't familiar with the area describe city place so city places really right in the heart of the city in Toronto terms. It's a relatively new neighborhood. There's a a lot of high rise condos Just recently the city has tried to figure out how to make it a more fulsome community building a have built a school community centre their They've put in some other amenities but it was really a built as a high rise residential community. There's just a lot of condo units all pushed into this one very small the area at the foot of the city in the heart of downtown. What Happened there this weekend. And what do we know about it so over the weekend there was a pretty significant shooting thing at three people died in that shooting. Two other men were injured. We know that all of the victims were under the age of twenty one and the most recent. Something we've heard from police is that they're actually investigating it as a possible murder suicide there. Three young men they haven't explained to us. which ones were you know? The alleged victims is in which was the alleged shooter but in any event three people dying in one incident is an extreme tragedy. And what about the location where it happened. What was going on so one of the first things we learned from police was that the men were in a unit that was being rented out through Airbnb and that is something that we have seen in the past? There've been incidents in AIRBNB units and that was a piece of information that police told us right away and something that's sort of I think been at the heart of the story. How how often does that kind of thing happened? I know Just anecdotally at least that city places notorious for being half real renters and half empty apartments. That are on AIRBNB. One of the downsides. I think to having this really rapidly growing city as we've had a lot of condos condo go up and a lot of people have purchased units as investment properties and one of the ways that they are garnering investment. Out of these is to rent them on sites like like AIRBNB. AIRBNB is not the only site. It's probably the most popular one. But you can make a lot of money just renting out these places on even just a weekend and the issue is that these the units that are being rented out this way are often not the owners primary residence again. They've purchase it as an investment instead of renting it out through kind of the traditional means or someone on signs a lease for twelve months just even a shorter amount of time. It's allowing the churn of people to come through and in buildings like city place. It's not the only place we've seen this. There are often multiple units in one building where people are renting out through AIRBNB and that creates a problem for the residents living there if the people coming to their building don't have a respect for the neighborhood or the neighbors and we. We've seen that in incidents like this. We hear about them so anecdotally. It sounds like a lot. It's hard to know how problematic the units are th. There's thousands of units listed on AIRBNB. So you have to put that in perspective but there certainly have been incidents like this. Has there been pushback from advocacy groups from neighborhood associations renters. Yeah there is is an advocacy group In the city which is quite organized airbnb. And they've been really pushing back against these types of units where they're are primarily rented through AIRBNB. We know it's a huge nuisance for for residents that live next to these. Units are in the same neighborhood is these units and it's also initially for the city because it means that these units aren't being offered as long term rental solutions in a city where we have a housing crisis. What was the immediate reaction from Serbian? Be after this particular shooting. Well there's been this ongoing issue of what they call ghost hotels and they're they're deeply concerned about these these kinds of units being rented out in this way Obviously a shooting building is is devastating for everyone And they would like to see. I think a crackdown on have been pushing for a crackdown on these types of units. What does the city tunnel sue the city at the end of two thousand seventeen after a lot of debate AH decided to regulate AIRBNB and what that means is that AIRBNB is allowed to operate and companies like AIRBNB are allowed to operate legally in the city but there are rules and some of those rules and I think airbnb and others would argue? The most important rule is that the unit that you're renting out has to be your primary residence residents and you can only rent it out for a certain number of days or consecutive days in the year and the idea. Is that if it's your home the home that you live in most of the time time. So let's say you have a Condo in Toronto this is true for a lot of Seniors in the city for example. But you go to Florida for part of the year. It would allow you to rent out your condo to someone on Airbnb while you're not here but the hope is that if it's your primary residence then you would take perhaps greater care in in screening the people that are using the unit or that it would prevent this ghost hotel phenomenon. That's been such a problem in Toronto. Okay so that was the end of two thousand seventeen exactly What happened? So what happened is that there were appeals. Made to this provincial tribunal It's called the local planning appeal tribunal. Oh really long name. We Call Them L. Pat but essentially they hear these types of appeals when it comes to city planning and development issues and and there was a pushback that the the regulations the city had an council had approved were too strict and this is coming from a landlord groups and and others who want to be able to rent out their investment properties in the way they always have been and finally in the end of last year the Alpine actually sided with the city and said no that the city's regulations would stand so we're actually in this strange Limbo period right now where the rule of the land are the regulations. The city put in place. But there's still some uptake in that the city hasn't actually started actively Lee licensing and having those already signed up on Airbnb as part of this licensing scheme so there will be this period up until The city says the summer summer where they haven't actually started actively licensing or enforcing the units. But that's coming. So this was a really ill-timed Not that any shooting is not ill-timed but I in the gray area between Enacting it and enforcing totally. So the hope is that once they start licensing enforcing part of that what is going to be a requirement that the companies like Airbnb are verifying the identity of the owners and their principal residence so that they would be able to identify that an owner lists a unit that they didn't show some kind of government defor as their primary residence then hopefully that unit would be delisted because because it doesn't adhere to the city's policies and that could be something that Airbnb what essentially regulate by adhering to the rules that the city put in place whether that works in practice. We'll have to see once. Those enforcement mechanisms are in place. But that's the hope is that you're not allowed to rent out an investment condo unless it's your primary residence or it's let's say it's your kids primary residence and it's hard to know what the loopholes are until they got a lot of reliance on the company itself to police this. It's it will be interesting to see to what extent city enforcement by law enforcement officers can play a part in. And that's the part of the challenge with AIRBNB and sites like it as that. The city doesn't have really insight into sort of the back end of the system. They they can't necessarily see that information. That AIRBNB has when you sign up to list your house right and that makes.

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