Neighbour Alison Way told CBC people ‘regularly’ rent the Ottawa home where the shooting occurred and there are sometimes disturbances. (Jean-Francois Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

Shooting reignites controversy over short-term rentals

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Two men were shot early on Oct. 20, 2019 at an Ottawa home that neighbours told CBC was an Airbnb rental. This was not confirmed by the company. But several neighbours told CBC reporters that the home was what they called a “ghost hotel” and the site of frequent noisy parties.

There have been several other complaints about short-term rentals in Canada. In February 2019 a woman was arrested for throwing a chair from the balcony of what was thought to be a short-term rental unit in a high-rise.

“It demonstrates that regulations for short-term rental companies like Airbnb are very much needed across the country,” says Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Fairbnb, a group that campaigns for such regulations. He says the number of short term-rentals has increased dramatically in Canadian cities and is growing in smaller cities and suburbs too. 

Tens of thousands of homes lost to the housing market, says researcher

Wieditz is not just concerned about the noise and disruption caused by some of the tourists renting these units. He says companies like Airbnb are having a dramatic effect on the housing stock in some cities. 

“Airbnb is removing tens of thousands of homes from the housing market and turns them into full time, what we call ghost hotels. So, it has an immense impact on the availability and affordability of housing in our cities.” 

Posters in Toronto’s Kensington Market call for action on short-term rentals and the problem of tenants who are evicted to make room for renters using websites like Airbnb. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

A call for a ‘fair and balanced’ approach

The city of Toronto is considering regulations to deal with the problems but home owners affiliated with Airbnb are fighting the change.  Wieditz explains the proposed regulations: “It’s a very fair and balanced approach,” says Wieditz. “If you and I want to rent out our home on Airbnb, we’re allowed to do so, but where Toronto’s rules would draw a line in the sand is to say, if you and I buy up, lease up, or otherwise acquire dozens and dozens of properties, condos or rental apartments for the sole purpose of turning these into ghost hotels that would not be allowed.”

This would prevent the huge loss of rental housing stock. And Wieditz says the problems of noise and disruption would diminish since individual homeowners are more likely to monitor such problems in order to maintain relations with their neighbours.

Wieditz is not in favour of Canada-wide rules to control short-term rentals because the problems are different in each city. But he urges city officials to study the problem in each jurisdiction in order to come up with the solutions that suit them best.

Thorben Wieditz says short-term rentals are removing tens of thousands of homes from Canada’s housing stock making rental units less available and less affordable. (Fairbnb)

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With files from CBC reporters Hillary Johnstone and Laura Glowacki.

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