Airbnb critic to launch its own ‘ethical’ home-sharing platform in Toronto

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A group that pushed Toronto to regulate short-term rentals is now planning to launch its own “ethical” home-sharing platform with a grant from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC).

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Fairbnb says its platform, which will initially focus on the City of Toronto, will use the same technology as Airbnb to support affordable housing in the city.

“No space used for long-term accommodation will be converted into tourist rentals,” said Thorben Widitz, spokesman for a coalition of housing advocates, community groups, academics and hotels.

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Fairbnb has argued for years that short-term rentals undermine the city’s permanent housing stock, turning homes into tourist accommodation. It stood with the city in winning an appeal by short-term rental landlords to a 2019 provincial tribunal. Landlords opposed the city’s short-term rental bylaw, which makes it illegal to operate a short-term rental that is not the landlord’s main residence.

Fairbnb’s home-sharing platform is expected to be operational in March. It will be the North American entry of European-based Fairbnb Coop, a website that encourages travelers to “pack their prices” and operates in cities such as Barcelona, ​​Rome and Amsterdam.

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“Fairbnb Coop is well established in Europe. It’s a very simple operation, similar to Airbnb and easy. But it is cooperatively controlled, owned and managed. A significant amount of wealth resides in the community,” Widitz said.

Half of Fairbnb’s 14 percent guest booking fee will go to the Kensington Market Community Land Trust, a group working to preserve affordable housing and commercial spaces in that neighborhood. The trust received $3 million from the city this year to renovate and operate about 12 affordable apartments on Kensington Avenue where tenants anticipate renovations – where landlords eject tenants under the guise of renovating a building so that they To be able to rent units for more money.

“This is really exciting to us. There is a way for neighbors to rent out their rooms, not as it always has been, but in a way that supports the community,” said Trust President Dominic Russell.

Serena Purdy of Friends of Kensington Market said that Kensington is a tourist destination and its residents welcome visitors. But the short-term rental industry has displaced many artist groups, students and people in precarious circumstances, she said.

“It’s hard to build this kind of community fabric—that mutual respect and security when you can’t hold your neighbors and you can’t look out for each other,” Purdy said.

Weiditz said that Fairbnb Coop is “bringing back the notion of home sharing that has been lost in the evolution of Airbnb.”

Airbnb and Fairbnb Coop both charge a guest booking fee of 14 percent. Airbnb also charges hosts a 3 percent fee. Fairbnb does not.

Wieditz says the new platform will ensure that all of its rentals comply with the city’s requirement to only rent rooms and homes that are their prime residence. This means that no permanent housing stock will be lost to tourists for rent, he said.

Despite the city’s bylaws and licensing regulations, Purdy said his old neighbors have not returned. Short-term landlords are renting space for more than the 28-night limit the city allows for short-term rentals. That said, people stay for a few more days and move on.

Fairbnb’s venture is one of 16 to receive funding under CMHC’s Community Land Trusts (CLT) and Land Assembly Solutions. Fairbnb was given $132,710.

Airbnb said it welcomes Fairbnb’s entry into short-term rentals.

“We share the belief that short-term rentals have an important role to play here in Toronto – one that we have seen firsthand, as hosting on Airbnb has created significant economic opportunities for Canadians and the local tourism economy. has diversified,” it said in a statement.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter who covers real estate for Granthshala. Follow him on Twitter: @teskalinowski



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