Increasing use of AirBnB may be cutting into Vancouver’s rental stock

For the last several months, SFU masters student Karen Sawatzky has been crunching the numbers on AirBnB in Vancouver.

The popular short-term rental site is a boon to both travellers looking for hotel alternatives, and home owners looking to supplement their income.

But Sawatzky is concerned where that leaves renters in Vancouver.

READ MORE: B.C. renters caught in an ‘affordability crunch’

“I think that AirBnB is making it easier for homeowners and worse for tenants,” she says.

“There’s significant financial incentives to rent through AirBnB instead of to tenants. The average rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is about $1100, whereas the average rate for an entire apartment or unit on AirBnB is $142. If you do that say 10, 15, 20 nights a month, you can make more than you would through regular rentals.”

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While AirBnB doesn’t publicly provide how many rentals exist, Sawatzky analyzed data on their website – and found the number of Vancouver listings has increased 17 per cent in the last five months. More than 75 per cent of all Metro Vancouver listings are in the city of Vancouver itself.

It’s potentially another pressure on affordable housing in a city where vacancy rates are regularly under one per cent.

The rental crunch: How a lack of apartments is affecting Canadian cities

“There are a whole bunch of other policy decisions being made about rental housing right now which are already decreasing the vacancy rate and making it increasingly difficult for somebody at the low end of the income spectrum to find housing,” says Tony Roy, Executive Director of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.

What Sawatzky’s data doesn’t show is whether the listings come from home or condo owners, landlords with spare units in their buildings, or tenants subletting places behind their landlord’s back.

That will require more digging, both from the city and Sawatzky – who looks forward to sharing her thesis when complete.

“I’m still working on my thesis…my results aren’t final but I thought I could make a contribution by contributing some data,” she says.

“I know the city of Vancouver is interested in my work and I’m going to be talking to them about it next week. When my thesis is published, I’ll certainly share that with them.”

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– With files from Nadia Stewart