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Ottawa could help address housing crisis by tackling Airbnb problem

Nearly half of Ottawa's Airbnb listings are run by a small group of people.
2019-04-09 fairbnb airbnb
Thorben Wieditz of Fairbnb speaks, alongside City Councillor Mathieu Fleury in Ottawa. Jenn Pritchard/ OttawaMatters.com

Some full Ottawa homes being run as "ghost hotels," on Airbnb, are hurting the city's vacancy rate, which sits at just 1.6 per cent.

Fairbnb is a coalition which has been studying issues caused by people who buy property just to rent it out, hotel-style, across Canada, and released a report on Ottawa, Tuesday.

There are about 2,830 Airbnb listings in the capital, and Fairbnb said nearly half of those are controlled by 37 per cent of Airbnb's local hosts. One of the city's top hosts has turned 76 homes into so-called "ghost hotels," meaning the city doesn't get any revenue for the business.

Thorben Wieditz with Fairbnb explained that this is happening because people know they can make a lot of money by circumventing the rules.

"Taxes, property taxes, landlord tenant laws, all these kinds of things," explained Wieditz. "So if you circumvent these existing rules and regulations, there's a lot of money in your pocket at the end of the day. And I think people are catching on to that."

The Fairbnb study defines commercial hosts as anyone who rents an entire home for more than 90 nights a year, rents more than two homes, or anyone who rents more than three private rooms. 

The coalition is suggesting that the city make changes to its short-term rental rules that would see 1,328 Airbnb listings become non-compliant. In turn, up to 1,054 entire homes could then be added to Ottawa's long-term housing supply.

Fairbnb also believes this Airbnb problem has lead to rent increases in the city.

Rideau-Vanier councillor Mathieu Fleury noted that the city gets calls to its bylaw office about these properties about noise and garbage piling up. He added that it costs the city about $300 to send bylaw officers each time, which adds up.

For more information on the Fairbnb Ottawa study, click here.

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