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Is Airbnb taking too many rental homes off the market?

Last Updated Dec 15, 2015 at 8:10 am PST

Airbnb listings in Vancouver (Source: insideairbnb.com)

Creater of Inside Airbnb says listings are having an impact on the rental market in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Ask anyone who’s tried to rent a home in Vancouver and you will hear how tough it can be when the vacancy rate drops as low as half a per cent.

But new research suggests vacation rental services are making it even tougher to find a place to live, as companies like Airbnb have seen listings leap over the last few months.

“As of December, there are 4,728 listings for Vancouver on the Airbnb website. I know from my data and some local data from an SFU researcher that is an increase of about 1,000 units over the last six months. It’s increasing fairly rapidly,” says Murray Cox, the creator of Inside Airbnb, an independent website analyzing the service’s rentals in cities around the world.

“Vancouver has a vacancy rate of 0.5 per cent, which is very, very low — in New York City it’s about two or three per cent — so housing seems to be a lot more of a scarce resource,” Cox tells NEWS 1130.

“The majority of Airbnb listings are entire homes and that is definitely having an impact on the rental market in Vancouver. At any point in time, there are under 1,000 apartments available for rent to residents of the city. So, if you look at these thousands of listings, it is taking rental stock off the market.”

And this is happening in a city where short-term rentals without a permit aren’t even legal.

“The laws don’t speak specifically to short term rentals and so it’s very difficult to police something like Airbnb. Even in cities that have ‘legalized’ Airbnb — like San Francisco, Portland, and London — people are still abusing the laws so, given the model Airbnb uses of not disclosing the actual address of the listings, it’s difficult for cities to enforce any regulations they might have.”

Cox says he can understand why people would want to offer their home to temporary renters rather than long-term residents and there are many home owners who are working the system.

“For a lot of people, it’s more profitable to be renting to tourists. It’s not just individuals renting out homes; there is a large proportion of people who have multiple properties they are putting up on the Airbnb website — it’s a third of the listings — so there are people who have figured out how to make money at this. They are turning residential properties into hotels,” he says.

Cox contends the public needs to know how online vacation rental services are affecting their local housing market.

“It’s definitely something the city needs to deal with.”

Airbnb listings in Vancouver
Airbnb listings in Vancouver (Source: insideairbnb.com)