Housing advocates cheer ban on short-term vacation rentals

By Sabrina Nanji April 7, 2020

Fairbnb is lauding the Ford government’s move outlawing short-term vacation rentals and Airbnbs during the pandemic. 
The group, which includes affordable housing and tenant advocates, said that “while this ban leaves the door open to legitimate use, it effectively shuts down still occurring party rentals and non-essential travel.” 
However, spokesperson Thorben Wieditz questioned whether there’s enough bite to back up the bark of enforcement. 
“The ruling puts the onus on short-term rental operators to decide whether a booking is legitimate,” he said in a statement to Queen’s Park Today.
Fairbnb called for the ban a week ago, pointing to data showing at least 170 listings across Canada using the terms “isolation” or “quarantine” to entice would-be temporary tenants.
“Get out of the city and isolate you and your family” in Blue Mountain, read one listing, while another lured people to “Isolate in Private [Quiet] Cottage” in Gravenhurst. 
Premier Doug Ford and a number of rural mayors have discouraged city dwellers from heading to cottage country out of fear they will spread the virus in rural communities with less robust health-care facilities. 
As first reported by Queen’s Park Today, cabinet signed off on the emergency order-in-council requiring Airbnbs and other short-term rentals to only accommodate “individuals who are in need of housing during the emergency period” last Friday. 
It was tacked on to the order whittling down the list of essential workplaces from 74 to 44 and took effect midnight Saturday. Hotels, motels and student residences aren’t impacted.  
As with all orders under the emergency act, individual offenders face fines up to $100,000 and one year in jail; directors of corporations could be dinged $500,000, while the company itself can be charged up to $10 million. 
Airbnbs are among the hardest hit businesses as pandemic fears slow tourism. 
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark‘s office said the decision was made based on advice from the chief medical officer of health.