Last Friday night, our community was rocked by another shooting that took three lives in a condo that was rented as an Airbnb unit. I visited the building afterward, and this is what I heard and saw.
The concierge who had been on duty that night was clearly shaken by the experience. Friday night had been his first night on the job. He told me that some of the shooting had spilt into the stairwell. Later, while I spoke with police, workers were ripping out the blood-stained carpet. When I was leaving, the elevator stopped two floors down from the site of the shooting and a father holding his 1 1/2 year toddler in his arms got on.
Downstairs in the lobby, a group of young people who looked dressed up for a party asked the concierge for directions to the nearest liquor store. Meanwhile another person was entering the building with an open bottle of liquor.
This was Sunday night. It appeared that the parties were continuing to happen in the building just two days after the shooting.
On Monday, Husain Neemuchala, a local resident, organized a meeting with several residents and a representative of Fairbnb in my office. The residents described frequent parties with noise and garbage in hallways - activities that continuously disturb their quality of life. In another condo building, the concierge described calling the police four times in a two week period because of Airbnb condos being used by a thief, for sex work and for drug dealing. Having Airbnb rentals used for parties and other illicit purposes is more than just an annoyance, it endangers our community.
The city bylaw on short-term rentals would prevent the type of rental that led to this shooting. While I fully support the city bylaw, I will be pushing for changes at the provincial level to make our condos safer.
It should also be recognized that while the measures to curb parties and shootings in condos are important, we must also deal with root causes of gun violence starting with the growing gap between rich and poor and the low income, isolated communities that result. For years, I have been advocating for a public health approach to gun violence, one that focuses on prevention. Bringing an end to gun violence is the only way to make our communities safe in the long run.