Toronto environmental groups launch platform on home-sharing in advance of possible ban

Environmentalists in Toronto are launching a platform for ethical home-sharing ahead of what is expected to be a heated debate on home sharing in the city. As the Toronto District School Board prepares to…

Toronto environmental groups launch platform on home-sharing in advance of possible ban

Environmentalists in Toronto are launching a platform for ethical home-sharing ahead of what is expected to be a heated debate on home sharing in the city.

As the Toronto District School Board prepares to approve a plan on Monday that includes home-sharing in the board’s parks, Sarnia Mayor John Henry and a group of supporters want Toronto to ban home-sharing for short-term vacation rentals and hire the city’s housing board instead.

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller, the former leader of the provincial Liberal Party, said last month that he was worried Airbnb threatens to upend the city’s rental housing and reducing rental prices, while promising to offer more insight on the issue during his campaign for re-election.

“Airbnb is not going away,” he said. “And people who have become very rich off its sales and occupancy are going to keep it as a legitimate, very profitable business, and it is going to remain as a special interest. But for the rest of us, the hope is the City of Toronto that this new trend of home sharing is temporary.”

Kenny Huisman, Uber’s regional general manager, made headlines last month when he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the company intends to raise prices in Toronto by 10 to 15 percent over the course of the next two years as the company faces increased regulatory pressure in Canada.

“This isn’t about just leaving to new technologies,” Miller said. “It’s a much more responsible way of doing it.”

He and several other liberal members of Toronto’s City Council have been pushing for a ban on short-term vacation rentals to increase the supply of affordable housing and an increase in residential rentals. Miller argued Airbnb profits would not benefit the local economy and instead was putting the rental market at risk for the middle-class families who would have to compete for rental units.

Last week, the Toronto District School Board is set to vote on whether to allow home-sharing for short-term vacation rentals in its parks. The plan is included in a new five-year property-tax stabilization plan.

“A home-sharing proposal for public parks has the potential to alleviate chronic overcrowding, constrain the growth of new private seasonal long-term leases and foster responsible vacation rentals through sharing,” Toronto’s parks and recreation director, Jonathan Hodgson, wrote in an email.

Under the proposal, owners of townhomes and other residential rental units would be able to rent out half of their unit for up to six months per year, while other homes, such as cabins or RV sites, would only be allowed to be rented out for up to two months per year. Non-residential properties could only be rented out for up to five months of the year.

The ban has the backing of Mayor John Tory, who said the plan would result in lower property tax costs for homeowners, more tax revenue for the city and a more viable alternative to high-rent hotel rooms in the city.

“The biggest landowner in the city for the 10-year period is the University of Toronto, and their options are that they could raise their own housing costs or invest that in a facility which would be highly profitable for them,” Tory said. “The other option is, what would happen to that space?”

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