Months into the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the short-term rental industry, one Yorkville building provides a snapshot into the city’s current downtown rental market.
The Yorkville Plaza Condominium Residence, located at 155 Yorkville Ave., is the site of the former Four Seasons Hotel. The luxury hotel moved in 2012, and the building was repurposed into a residential condo building.
A recent search of the property on Strata.ca shows 27 listings for sale and 57 listings for rent out of the total of 508 units in the 32-storey building.
Laura Violo of Keller Williams Neighbourhood Realty has had her rental unit in the building on the market for more than 70 days. She attributes the high vacancy rate in the building to the fact that people are no longer working or studying downtown as much as they did in the days before COVID-19.
“I think the pandemic, the impact on some of the properties, especially downtown, it’s huge. There are lots of students that aren’t going to school any more because they don’t need to go down there, to the university. There was a real demand before for people to live and work downtown, and now they don’t have to during the pandemic,” said Violo. “You can work from anywhere, and you can study from anywhere. Until things open up, I think it will be very slow.”
Another agent with a rental property in the building who did not wish her name to be published said that the primary reason for the high number of rental vacancies was the fact that the building allows short-term rentals, meaning the building was highly impacted by the crash of the city’s tourism industry amidst COVID-19. She said that many of the owners are trying to rent their properties now that renting on Airbnb is no longer profitable or cost-effective.
Alex Dagg, public policy manager of Airbnb Canada, said that, although challenges brought on by COVID-19 have had a significant impact on the tourism industry as a whole, a recent company survey showed nine in 10 hosts surveyed said they will host at least as often once travel restrictions lift.
Despite this, a recent study by Zoocasa found that new rental and sales listings in buildings that allowed short-term rentals or were known to be popular on Airbnb exceed new listings in Toronto as a whole.
According to Zoocasa agent Andrew Kim in a statement, COVID-19 created a steep increase in inventory and a drop in rental prices due to lower demand, as students, those who saw their employment impacted by the pandemic and those who no longer felt the need to live close to work due to remote-working options gave up their leases. Kim also noted that demand for short-term rentals remains low despite a restriction on short-term rentals in Ontario being lifted on June 5. Kim said this gives renters more options at a better price, compared to last year when rental vacancies were at an all time low.