About & Contact

I’m keenly aware of the ambition implied by my tag line for this blog – Examining the impacts of Airbnb and other short-term rental services on tenants, housing, and cities – so this is where I’m going to set some limits on what I aim to do here, and what readers (assuming there are any) can expect.

When it comes to Airbnb and similar ventures, I’m primarily interested in how they affect the supply of long-term rental housing available to tenants and, to the extent that those effects exist and are negative, figuring out how to respond to them. I think the technology-assisted proliferation of for-profit short-term rental services has other and broader implications for housing and cities, which I also hope to deal with, but the effects on the supply of long-term rental housing and the tenants who depend on that housing is my current focus.

By way of context, this blog is an offshoot of research I’m conducting for the major research project of my Master of Urban Studies degree. It is not the actual research project itself, but instead a personal place for me to discuss and share some of the information and resources I’m finding or creating in the process of completing the project. As such, much of what I say here may be commentary or opinion on news items, rather than fact-checked or rigorously sourced academic prose. On the other hand, I always like to bring the evidence and to acknowledge the many ways in which my knowledge is all too limited. I encourage you to (politely) point out my blind spots, errors and omissions.

At this point (written Sept. 2014), I have been actively collecting, reading and analyzing news stories and blogs about short-term accommodation rentals, including Airbnb’s own website, policy blog, and public statements, for almost a year. I used some of that research in an article I wrote for The Tyee in June 2014. I have also begun to delve into the popular and scholarly literature on housing and the so-called “sharing economy.” All this has led me to the preliminary hypothesis that Airbnb is decreasing the supply of long-term rental housing that’s available to tenants, at least in some cities, and I include my home city of Vancouver in that number. Whether that hypothesis will stand up to further scrutiny is something I’m eager to test, and I certainly expect to further refine my ideas as I go along.

The recent (meaning, after the 2008 founding of Airbnb) dramatic spike in the accessibility and popularity of short-term accommodation rentals is a global phenomenon and one very much intertwined with ongoing and rapid developments in information technology. And of course, Airbnb didn’t arise from a vacuum, but is instead itself a product of macroeconomic forces such as globalization and liquid capital. I can’t hope to document or post about all relevant developments given that I have only a few spare hours a week to devote to this blog. What I do aspire to gradually create here is a resource that will aid other researchers, and perhaps policy makers, who are interested in urban housing, rental housing, inequality and related social justice topics.

Karen Sawatzky

P.S. I have another newish blog, where I occasionally post about a broader and more personal range of topics…It’s here.

If you’d like to contact me, please use the form below, or find me on Twitter @karensawa.

6 thoughts on “About & Contact

  1. FYI: Did you see this in the Dickens list a couple of weeks ago? Could be good source of info for you?

    Is your building becoming an Airbnb hotel?
    I accidentally discovered that THREE suites in our Mount Pleasant condo building have been outfitted as hotel rooms, complete with little soaps and hair dryers! This businessperson’s family owns 9 of the 60 suites in our building, but none of them live here. The unis are listed on Airbnb.com for between $89 and $100 a night! Our strata council is starting the process of battling this. I’m interested to hear from you if you are facing a similar situation in a shared building and are willing to speak up about it. Ulrike, 604-970-2598, mail@ulrike.ca


  2. Karen I am extremely happy to have found you and this site. I spend a lot of my limited brain power trying to think through these issues as well. I’m coming to this as the founder of the very recently launched ourtownpropertymanagement.com which is provides “community responsible airbnb management” in Santa Barbara, CA – one of the tightest rental markets in the world (~.3% vacancy!) and also among the most sought after destinations on Airbnb (5th most searched US city on Airbnb last summer). The idea is to facilitate people using airbnb when they travel – not as the “distributed inn” model that is growing so rapidly. I’ve got some meetings with significant policy makers next week and have an idea or a presentation I’d like to run by you offline. Please get in touch!


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