Airbnb and short-term rentals in Vancouver on the rise

This summer, Global News reported on a study suggesting short term rental, like Airbnb, could make Vancouver’s housing crunch even worse. Now the latest data from the study shows it’s a sign of a longer term trend. Tanya Beja has a News Hour follow up.

Finding a place to stay in Vancouver can take patience and a big pocket book. One of the best indicators of vacancy rates is waiting lists, and in Vancouver, they are almost at zero.

In the summer, Global News reported on a study suggesting short-term rentals, like Airbnb, could make Vancouver’s housing crunch worse. At the time, the research was criticized for focusing on a snapshot of the situation during the height of the summer tourist season.

But now, the latest data from the study shows it’s a sign of a longer-term trend.

“It’s not a healthy rental environment with half a percent vacancy rate,” NDP Housing Critic David Eby told Global News.

The competitive rental environment is further complicated by more properties popping up on Airbnb, which is an online service allowing owners to rent rooms or suites on a nightly basis, usually to tourists.

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According to a study by a New York-based researcher, the number of Vancouver listings is now at 4,728 units, which shows an increase of more than 60 per cent from a year ago.

“Homeowners are finding ways to offset their housing costs by perhaps putting secondary suites or laneway homes, or investors are having condos and instead of renting it to a tenant, you know because of the profit incentives, they’re renting it to a tourist,” said SFU Urban Studies master’s student Karen Sawatzky.

The study found the average nightly Airbnb rental rate is $127 for a total of $3,810 a month. That cost is almost two to three times higher than what a listing might fetch with a long-term tenant. Short-term rentals also violate city bylaws if the owners don’t have a permit.

“Some people don’t want to rent to long-term tenants, and that’s another policy issue,” Sawatzky said.

“How do we encourage people that do have these units, to rent them to long-term tenants?”

Critics say the Airbnb numbers point to the need for all levels of government to get more involved.

“They need to respond constructively with new rental housing for people because we’re losing that rental housing for so many reasons Airbnb is just one of those reasons,” Eby said.

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And without that rental housing, critics say Vancouver may be a welcome place for tourists, while tenants are forced to search elsewhere.