What’s going on with Airbnbs? – The Globe and Mail

Sana Zareey and Dr. Alicia Cundall with their children Maxwell and Sophia at their home in Stratford, Ont. On July 10, 2021.

JUSTIN LANGILLE / The Globe and Mail

The first cancellation took place in March 2020, just as Sana Zareey and Dr Alicia Cundall welcomed electricians working to prepare the new Tom Patterson Theater for opening in Stratford, Ont. The workers’ plans to stay in the couple’s Airbnb for more than a month were abruptly canceled with the province’s order to stop all non-essential work. One by one, the reservations disappeared.

“It was just a snowball effect,” says Zareey, then deputy principal of Nancy Campbell Academy, a private school in Stratford. “They canceled, and then all the cancellations came in. We had booked through Airbnb until September, mostly for the theater, but people were coming for all kinds of reasons all year round, from hockey tournaments to weddings.”

As Airbnb and Ontario rolled out guidelines, the couple turned to accommodation for incoming healthcare workers in Stratford. Dr Cundall returned to work in the emergency room at Stratford General Hospital just four months after the birth of their second child, while Mr Zareey continued to run their Airbnb business. With 24-hour intervals required for disinfection between stays, they’ve implemented a three-night minimum. So far this year, revenues are around 50% from pre-pandemic times.

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The couple joined Airbnb in 2016, listing their basement for $ 40 a night and quickly achieved “superhost” status with their warm hospitality. By 2019, they had purchased two more homes, including one with Mr Zareey’s parents who operate an Airbnb in their basement, which is currently under renovation. Their other homes are now long-term rented while Dr. Cundall does a pediatric emergency internship at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and Mr. Zareey completes a doctorate at the University of Toronto.

With restrictions lifted and limited cinema openings, travelers are returning, but pending regulations in Stratford, like those in Toronto, Vancouver and cities in North America, pose new challenges for owners wishing to rent. short term. Mr Zareey attended community meetings early on, facing bed and breakfast (B&B) owners who were furious that Airbnb was moving to Stratford.

Sana and her father, Soheil, are renovating an Airbnb unit in the basement so they can start hosting again this summer, as workers and tourists begin to return.

JUSTIN LANGILLE / The Globe and the Mail

“I was a minority who advocated allowing responsible owners to license and become Airbnb hosts, as this is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to earn extra income,” Zareey explains. “The bed and breakfast operators weren’t happy because they had already invested in their own website, but eventually joined Airbnb. The pending safety regulations make sense. Airbnb operators should be licensed and undergo the same inspections as B&B companies. “

In addition, Stratford’s new provisions would limit short-term rental operators to only renting out their primary residence or other living unit for up to 120 days per year.

Kathy Vassilakos, city councilor for Stratford and a member of the Planning and Heritage subcommittee that developed the bylaws, says the issues revolved around the balance between the various elements of public interest that accompany short rentals. term. There is zoning, which relates to the compatibility of land use, and the impact on residential neighborhoods, affordable housing and rental stock which, like most municipalities in Ontario, is low.

“A lot of Airbnbs and owner-operated vacation rentals were originally started so that people could use their existing primary residence for a small income,” she says. “But the changes we’ve seen, along with some analysis of data from other countries, show a number of short-term accommodations that have a lot of units. So basically, how do you control the marketing of short-term accommodation so that it doesn’t impact your rental accommodation?

“The final element is licensing and leveling the playing field, ensuring that when visitors come here, they will be safe in a legal and authorized place – be it a hotel, B&B or Airbnb style.”

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Mike Riehm feels conflicted over recent Toronto regulations restricting short-term rentals to their own primary residence. Chairman of Envirobond Products Corp., Mr. Riehm has been an Airbnb “superhost” for nearly a decade, renting two units in his house, as well as his house when he was away. Before the pandemic, he estimates he was making an average of $ 4,000 per month per apartment over 12 months. Currently, it is inactive on Airbnb, with the upstairs unit turned into a long-term lease and downstairs, reserved for rentals over 28 days, marketed to local people who are renovating their own homes.

“It makes sense that Toronto is trying to shut down ‘ghost hotels’ (Airbnb ads that are not owner-occupied and managed by a company) because there is a shortage of long-term rentals,” says Riehm. “People were buying condos primarily to turn them into hotels, but others that only had nanny suites were caught in the crossfire. Now with the statuses, even though I own the house and the basement apartment is my property, I cannot rent it on Airbnb because it is not my primary residence.

Besides the statuses, he cites COVID-19, increased competition and a scary, out-of-control party where people refused to leave as reasons to give up, although he will likely list his own apartment on Airbnb when he starts traveling again. He misses to visit Europe.

Nathan Rotman, Public Policy Manager for Airbnb in Canada, is proud of the relationships Airbnb has developed with cities, as well as with provincial and federal governments. For example, as of January 2021, only hosts registered with a city license were eligible to continue on Airbnb as a short-term rental in the city of Toronto.

“We collect 4 percent of municipal taxes on lodging and share reservation data with cities on a monthly basis,” says Rotman. “We also launched the city portal, a tailor-made tool giving direct access to the back-end of our platform. If a host has lost their license or timed out, the city can flag it for deletion. “

Airbnb statistics show a trend towards local trips of less than 500 kilometers to reconnect with friends and family and to rural places such as national or provincial parks to enjoy nature after being locked up. People are also staying longer, with bookings of 28 nights or more dropping from 14% to 21%.

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“Cottage rentals and farm stays are doing well,” says Rotman. “People who take a week’s vacation with the kids by the lake often extend it now that they can work remotely. This is a significant change from pre-pandemic patterns. “

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