Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

Airbnb Listings in Canada Set to Jump Amid Regulatory Scrutiny

  • Listings in Toronto gained about 60 percent to 15,000 in 2016
  • Company’s head of public policy meeting with politicians

Airbnb Inc.’s presence in Canadian cities is set to keep growing, even as regulators across the country take a closer look at bringing in tighter rules for short-term home rentals.

Airbnb listings in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, grew to more than 15,000 in 2016, according to a report Airbnb released Wednesday. That’s up almost 60 percent from the 9,460 the city of Toronto estimated were available in 2015.

Compared to other markets around the world, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have a lot more room to grow, Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of public policy said in an interview. While hip neighborhoods and the downtown cores of those cities have many listings, the company expects accommodations will start to appear in other parts of the metropolitan area that aren’t traditional tourist spots, Lehane said.

Housing affordability is a controversial issue in Canada. The average price for a single-family home in Toronto and Vancouver is more than C$1 million ($761,000), according to real estate boards in those cities, keeping younger people out of the market. Last year, British Columbia started charging foreign home buyers a 15 percent tax and the federal government tightened mortgage rules.

Toronto and Vancouver are looking at rules to regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms. About a dozen protesters waved signs and handed out pamphlets outside a venue Lehane was set to speak at on Wednesday.

Airbnb guests spent C$417 million in Toronto in 2016, according to the company’s report. If it were kicked out of the city, Toronto would lose around 600 full-time positions, the company said. Airbnb helps housing affordability in Canada by giving homeowners a new avenue to pay off their mortgages, Lehane said.

“Toronto is a very cosmopolitan city. You have a big workforce where people are spending days if not weeks away from their homes,” he said. “You’re helping people use housing to its maximum utility and creating that supplemental income.”

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