Renting in Toronto is difficult at the best of times, so finding an apartment for less than $1,000 a month in a hip location is nothing short of a miracle.
But look no further than this place we found on Craigslist last night. It advertises itself as a “lovely private room with a comfortable king-size bed in the Junction area.” The room features a big ol' bed, what I can only describe as a haunted dresser (that seems to be blocking a closet, more on that later), a lamp or two, and, well, that's pretty much it. But it's going for only $975 a month and the landlord only wants first and last month. Wowzers! What a find!
However, if you look a little closer there are a few hints that this property was not meant to be lived in by Toronto residents. The first would be the line that reads, “please note that you won’t have access to a kitchen and laundry in the house.” Booo! Not having a kitchen in a time of a pandemic is an… interesting choice for humans who can no longer go to restaurants. And then there’s the line about you having to share a washroom and shower with “other tenants,” whoever they are. If you’re still a bit skeptical of this property's rental bonafides, may I introduce you to this little photo?
Yeah, as you can see in the above, there seems to be a small table draped with some form of gaudy fabric and a coffee machine blocking a door (presumably to the kitchen). Another photo at the door features those brochures you would find walking out of any two-star hotel.
Ads like these in the time of 'rona are a dime a dozen not only in Toronto, but across the globe, particularly in cities with a sizable tourism industry. And why is that? It’s because this was likely a short-term rental, such as an Airbnb, until now.
With most travel being put on hold or cancelled outright, the the coronavirus pandemic has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard. Take, for example, how one Airbnb host narc’d her situation to Now Toronto last week.
"I have four units and they have always performed at 90 percent occupancy or higher until now,” Andrea Orozco told the outlet. “I have four individual apartments within my bungalows. I might have to take in full-time tenants, but I really don't want to."
Orozco said that full-time tenants, the people who actually need housing, were just too much of a hassle and would rather sell than rent long term.
Landlords who are using properties for short term rentals are one of the reasons that housing in Toronto has become immensely expensive and difficult to come by. A report from an advocacy group examining Airbnb in Toronto found 10,000 active rentals were skirting the city's rules around long-term renting and over 7,000 that were considered "ghost hotels." Ghost hotels were defined by the group as “entire homes taken from the long-term housing market to be used for tourist accommodations."
Now, after aiding the destruction of Toronto’s rental market, short-term rental landlords are flooding both the rental market and selling off their condos or homes. According to realtor.ca, there have been over 233 new listings since March 16 that feature the term “furnished” in their ad. It's a big jump, if you go back seven weeks, the number (which includes the 233) is only at 431. Many are being advertised as “Airbnb approved" and furnished in the traditional Airbnb style—with many being listed well below the typical price to rent in Toronto.
It’s hard not to think of this as a long-needed reckoning, as short-term landlords have been raking it in for years, all the while as local renting residents have been forced to pay more and more for less.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.