Toronto’s ‘Ghost Hotels’ Rise in Number, Airbnb Watchdog Alarms

Toronto's 'Ghost Hotels' Rise in Number, Airbnb Watchdog Alarms
Residents says their building on St. Patrick Street in Ottawa has been host to a so-called 'ghost hotel' since the beginning of the year. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

Fairbnb, the prominent Canadian watchdog group, has heightened concerns over the rising number of Toronto condo buildings that have been transformed into “ghost hotels”.

The Phenomenon of Ghost Hotels

These so-called “ghost hotels” are typically condominium units that tenants rent and subsequently list on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, aiming to turn a significant profit. A concerning trend has emerged, where residentially zoned and taxed buildings are stealthily operating as these “ghost hotels”.

The City of Toronto, aware of the issue, had implemented policies aimed at preventing this kind of sub-leasing during the pandemic. However, as the tourism sector is steadily reviving, the phenomenon of ghost hotels appears to be resurfacing.

Incidents and Concerns

The matter came into the spotlight when, in 2020, two bullets pierced through a wall of a condo located on York Street. The unit, according to neighbours, was speculated to be used as an illegal short-term rental. Reflecting on the incident, former City councillor Joe Cressy stated, “The city desperately needs short-term rental operators like Airbnb to delist properties that don’t comply with municipal zoning and tax requirements.”

Startling Numbers

Recent data collected by Fairbnb reveals some alarming statistics. A substantial number of Toronto condominiums seem to be increasingly involved in the short-term rental market:

  • ICE Towers at 12 and 14 York Street: 236 short-term rental units.
  • 300 Front Street West: 195 short-term rental units.
  • The Parade Towers at 15 and 21 Ice Boat Terrace: 166 short-term rental units.

Furthermore, the Spadina-Fort York area alone houses an astonishing 2,058 short-term rentals. This constitutes about one-third of Toronto’s entire Airbnb listings. It’s worth noting, however, that this figure has declined from an estimated 7,000 such rentals in 2020.