Table of Contents

December 20, 2023 - Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Finance Canada

In a move to tackle the housing crisis gripping major Canadian cities, the Department of Finance Canada has released a draft legislation aimed at curtailing the tax benefits associated with short-term rentals.
According to the government, this groundbreaking measure comes as part of its multifaceted economic plan, which seeks to create jobs, address housing affordability, and ensure tax system fairness.

The Short-Term Rental Landscape: A Growing Concern

As of 2020, the impact of short-term rentals on the housing market was palpable, with an estimated 18,900 homes in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver alone being utilized for transient accommodations. This number, although likely to have risen in subsequent years, prompted the federal government to take action.
Airbnb, a major player in the short-term rental market, acknowledges a drop in listings in Toronto and Montreal since 2020. However, the debate around the role of short-term rentals in the housing crisis persists.
Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s policy lead for Canada, contends that the majority of hosts share their primary residence to supplement income, constituting less than 1% of the country’s housing stock.
Rotman asserts that many Canadians rely on home-sharing for additional income, particularly in the face of rising inflation, interest rates, and the overall cost of living.

Government's Response: A Two-Pronged Approach

Starting in 2024, the Canadian government is set to allocate $50 million over three years to empower municipalities to enforce restrictions on short-term rentals. This financial injection aims to bolster the hands of local authorities grappling with the surge in transient accommodations.
Simultaneously, the draft legislation proposes a significant alteration to the tax treatment of expenses incurred by owners of short-term rental apartments. This measure seeks to rein in the financial benefits associated with such rentals, potentially reshaping the economic landscape of short-term hosting in Canada.

Housing Crisis and Immigration-Fueled Demand

The root cause of the housing crisis in Canada is multifaceted, with immigration-fueled population growth outpacing the supply of available housing. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation as low mortgage rates encouraged higher offers from buyers adapting to remote work.
Canadian homebuilders find it challenging to keep pace with demand, creating a supply-demand imbalance that contributes to soaring housing prices.

The draft legislation has not been without its critics. Gabriel Giguère, a public policy analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute, expresses skepticism about the government’s focus on modifying the tax treatment of short-term rental expenses.

Giguère argues that without a substantial increase in housing supply, any solution is merely a distraction from the core issue at hand.

Global Perspectives and Local Measures

Internationally, jurisdictions like Florence, Italy, have banned new short-term home rentals, while Byron Bay in Australia is set to limit the availability of certain properties for short-term holiday stays.
British Columbia has implemented rules requiring hosts to register with the province, increased fines for rule violations, and restricted rentals to a portion of the principal residence.
While these measures echo the global sentiment against the perceived negative impacts of short-term rentals, the effectiveness of such regulations remains a subject of ongoing debate.
Proponents argue that these measures protect housing availability for long-term residents, while critics, including Airbnb, assert that such regulations are not a panacea for the housing crisis.

Conclusion: Navigating the Road Ahead

As the Department of Finance Canada charts this new course to address the housing crisis, it remains to be seen how effective the proposed legislative changes will be. The infusion of $50 million for municipal enforcement signals a commitment to empowering local authorities. But questions linger about the broader impact on the economy, particularly for individuals relying on short-term rentals for supplemental income.
In the quest for a comprehensive solution, striking a balance between regulatory measures and addressing the fundamental issue of housing supply becomes crucial.
The government’s step in this direction signifies a commitment to untangle the intricate web of factors contributing to the housing crisis. But only time will reveal the true impact of these measures on the Canadian real estate landscape. The journey ahead is challenging, yet the determination to revamp the housing market for the benefit of all remains unwavering.