Link to my thesis: Short-term consequences: Investigating the nature, extent and rental housing implications of Airbnb listings in Vancouver

I defended my thesis on September 8, 2016 and have now uploaded the document to the SFU Library, where it is available online.

Short-term Consequences: Investigating the Nature, Extent and Rental Housing Implications of Airbnb listings in Vancouver

This is the research question my thesis addresses:

What are the extent and nature of Airbnb listings in the City of Vancouver and what are the implications of that information for the city’s rental housing policy goals?

To answer the “extent and nature” part of my question, I collected and analyzed Airbnb listings data for the period between the end of November 2014 and the beginning of December 2015.


Response to the City of Vancouver’s proposed approach to regulating short-term rentals

Below are the written remarks I gave today at city hall – actually a slightly longer version because I crossed out a few things just before speaking in order to fit the time limit.

Here is the staff report to which these remarks respond.

You may also wish to see my related comments in response to an October 4 story in Metro News, in which Airbnb proponents suggest a more flexible approach to regulation than restricting eligibility for licences to principal residences. Airbnb’s representative, Alex Dagg, confirmed today at city hall that the company does want to see STRs allowed in secondary suites and laneway housing.

October 5, 2016

I support the approach to regulating short-term rentals, or STRs, outlined in staff’s report. I’m speaking as someone who recently defended my master’s thesis in urban studies, in which I investigated the nature and extent of Airbnb listings in Vancouver. I looked at Airbnb’s growth, where listings were located, how much they cost and the type of listings. I also looked at the implications of this data in light of the local rental housing context and the city’s housing policy goals, concluding that the unchecked growth of Airbnb is an obstacle to the city reaching its housing goals, which include the protection of existing rental stock and ensuring that people of all incomes and ages can afford to live here. Having immersed myself in this topic for almost three years, I can probably appreciate the complexity of staff’s task more than most. I think they’ve done a very good job and thank them for their work.

Most broadly, I appreciate what I see as a framework that prioritizes the protection of existing and potential rental housing. I understand the importance of tourism to our local economy and the desire to balance the protection of housing with other interests, such homeowners wanting to earn money from STRs and the benefits of having options for tourists. Staff have struck a good balance between these interests for now and I especially endorse the proposal to limit STR licences to principal residences, so that investment condos, secondary suites and laneway houses can’t be used full-time for tourist purposes. I also believe that limiting licences to principal residences is important if council wants to increase support for further diversification or densification of the housing stock. While I favour more diverse and dense options myself, I think it’s reasonable and predictable that people who are less supportive of that direction will resist it more if they don’t see the city taking proactive steps to ensure our existing housing supply is used for its intended purpose, especially when the need for that housing is so great. I also support this approach based on its simplicity and believe it will be easier to explain, administer and enforce than adopting models that involve caps on the number of nights rented or limits on the licences granted by neighbourhood or dwelling type. However, enforcing STR rules has proven challenging in most jurisdictions, not least because of a lack of actual, rather than just rhetorical, cooperation from the platforms. But that is certainly not a reason to move forward or to lower reasonable expectations. I suggest you move ahead, understanding that rules and strategies may need to be adjusted based on how conditions change on the ground, including how cooperative STR operators and the platforms turn out to be.

I commend staff for including a requirement to display the licence number in the online listing itself and hope you will make it a separate offence to omit or fake that number. I also agree with the proposal to commit resources to monitoring through a third-party service that can match listings with addresses.

 I do, however, worry that this approach seems to allow for people to use individual bedrooms for STR purposes on a full-time basis, as long as a principal resident also lives in the dwelling. It seems we could have a person who lives in a two or three-bedroom apartment, or even a five-bedroom house, and rents out all but one bedroom for STR purposes on a full-time basis. When we have so many people, including but not only young people, whose wages don’t allow them to rent a self-contained studio or one-bedroom for less than 30% of their gross pay, I see that as a problem. For some, the only affordable option is shared housing. This concern also pertains to the need for family housing. We know we have a shortage of units with two or more bedrooms. Airbnb makes it possible and lucrative for some to fill those scarce larger units with tourists instead of families with children. Is that a practice we want city policy to allow? I recognize this “spare” (or private, in Airbnb terms) rooms issue is complicated for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s at least worth flagging for future consideration.

The report also limit discussion of non-compliance penalties to the STR operators or hosts, excluding the platforms. Perhaps that discussion is yet to come. I suggest that effective and fair regulation would require the platforms, which are after all earning money from non-compliant listings, to share the burden of compliance and also be liable to penalties.

An argument I’ve heard against limiting STRs and that we may hear today is one where one property owners say they could not afford their house, or run their business, or have the quality of life they want without renting out their basement suite, investment condo or laneway home on Airbnb. My response is that if someone can’t afford their housing without doing something that breaks city bylaws and has so many negative impacts on others, including those whose housing security is more precarious than their own, their decision to purchase that housing in the first place was probably unwise. Similarly, many of us could have an easier or better quality of life if we chose to earn extra money in ways that were illegal or socially damaging. I don’t believe city policy should implicitly endorse people buying more housing than their own incomes and long-term rental revenue allow for. Finally, in a broader sense, it’s worth remembering at this point that the revenue stream Airbnb provides is overwhelmingly available only to homeowners, since provincial law says tenants must have their landlord’s consent to sublet and, understandably, many landlords are unwilling to give that. So, by allowing part-time use of dwellings as STRs you will help homeowners afford their housing and I’m sure many will be glad for that. But you will not be helping the vast majority of renters afford their housing – and census and NHS data shows they are much more in need of that help. I argue that one of Airbnb’s broad effects is to undermine tenants by providing property owners with a cash-flow solution that is more lucrative and flexible than renting to long-term residents. In so doing, I believe it contributes to housing inequality and further commodifies housing. In light of this, it’s urgent that council take steps to limit and hopefully reverse the growth of STRs in Vancouver. I urge you to move forward with doing so.

A response to “Vancouver renters fight for the right to Airbnb”

Here is my response to a news story published in Metro News today about tenants who sublet part of their rented house on Airbnb, were threatened with eviction, and then moved and bought a condo in False Creek. It illustrates several points that I think are important in the debate about Airbnb’s benefits, so I wanted to respond. I plan to make separate, though somewhat similar remarks, in support of the city’s proposed new approach to regulating short-term rentals tomorrow in person at city hall. Here is a link to the staff report containing those recommendations.

While not the focus of my letter, I do think that tenants who give “the finger” to a landlord’s very reasonable and legal request to stop subletting on Airbnb are doing a disservice to their fellow tenants.

Also, it’s possible that the points raised in this article regarding flexibility are a preview of Airbnb’s response strategy. If so, that would be consistent with how I’ve seen Airbnb respond to proposed STR regulations elsewhere, which is to essentially say, “Yes, please regulate us. We’re all in favour of fair and sensible regulations.” However, when it comes time for those regulations to actually be implemented, Airbnb starts changing its tune, to the effect of, “Of course, we’re all in favour of sensible and fair regulations, it’s just that these particular regulations aren’t quite fair and reasonable enough for our liking. Especially parts X and Y.” And it’s usually parts X and Y that are essential to protecting housing from conversion to full-time STR units or actually enforcing the rules Airbnb claims to support.

If it is going to advocate for more flexibility, rather than strictly precluding housing units that are not primary residences from eligibility for an STR licence, I’m quite interested to hear what Airbnb’s alternative regulatory proposals are. I’m also very interested in its response to the proposed requirement to display a permit number in online listings – an idea it has resisted elsewhere.


Dear Mayor and Council,

In advance of your consideration tomorrow of the staff report on a proposed new approach for regulating short-term rentals, I would like to draw your attention to a story in the news today that I think may be used to argue for a different and looser approach to this issue than the one staff has recommended. I would also like to outline what I see as the flaws in those arguments.

The linked story in Metro News describes a situation in which a two-income couple with three children rented an entire large house in Kitsilano for $4,200. They said they could only afford the rent by subletting out a separate basement suite in that house on Airbnb for an average of $2,000 per month, a rate that is considerably higher than the long-term going rate for a one-bedroom basement suite in that area. When new owners later bought the house, they told the couple to stop subletting the separate suite on Airbnb, which the couple refused to do, though they subsequently agreed to move and then bought a condo in False Creek.

As I understand it, if properly enforced and with due attention to the requirement for proof of primary residence, staff’s proposed rules would prevent this type of situation from occurring, or at least offer an avenue of recourse when such situations come to light. That is very good and is part of why I support the proposed approach. However, in the story one of the tenants in question seems to be suggesting that their situation provides an example of why the rules should be more flexible. He says: “Do we want a hard and fast rule? Is that what we want, for there to be no exceptions?” He then goes on to argue that Airbnb is good for the neighbourhood because it allows “tourists, new immigrants and older people visiting new grandchildren a place to stay right within Kitsilano, which has few hotels.”

The latter quote illustrates an idea that I often see implied regarding the benefits of Airbnb – an idea I’m opposed to and consider detrimental to tenants. Certainly, I agree that if a housing unit would be otherwise be vacant while someone is away on holiday, it is likely to bring extra business and vibrancy to a neighbourhood if a tourist is able to stay there during the vacant period. But that is not the situation here – the situation in this example is one where Airbnb proponents seem to be arguing (as per their own circumstances) that it is better to have “tourists, new immigrants and older people visiting new grandchildren” staying in the self-contained basement suite than it would be to have renters living there. I don’t see how this is accurate in an economic sense, but more importantly, I find it offensive, as it suggests that tourists are a greater benefit to communities than actual residents who happen to be renters. I see this idea as diametrically opposed to Vancouver’s housing and healthy city goals. It is also not the reason the city legalized secondary suites, a policy change that was partly justified based on the need for more affordable rental housing.

Further, given the occupations of the couple in question (inventor and designer), I would not be surprised to hear Airbnb proponents argue for having looser regulations so that people like these (people in the arts or other creative occupations) can earn extra income by renting out entire suites they don’t live in. This argument was implied in one of Airbnb’s recent Vancouver advertisements  profiling a filmmaker, who it turns out also rents out an entire unit that is not his principal residence. While I understand that many arts workers have a very hard time living in Vancouver due to low earnings in that sector and the high cost of housing and studio space, I don’t think allowing those in the arts who are in a position to own or rent more housing than they need to use that surplus housing for full-time STR purposes is a good solution to that problem. People with low incomes, including many in the arts, are more likely to be renters and the best way to help them afford to stay in Vancouver is to require that housing be used to house residents, not for tourist accommodation.

This news story also illustrates how Airbnb provides a mechanism for those who are better off to benefit at the expense of those who have less – less income and less housing security. Those who are better off in terms of housing are vastly more likely to be homeowners, but in some cases, such as this one, they can include renters too. Although I am a tenant, I don’t endorse other tenants taking housing out of the rental market to benefit themselves – because other renters need that housing. While I agree with the staff proposal to allow renters to be eligible for the new STR licences if they have the consent of their landlord, I suggest that only a small minority of renters (who will tend to be better off) will be able to obtain that permission.

The proponents in this story also argue for looser regulations because Airbnb allows visiting grandparents to stay close to their families in neighbourhoods, rather than in downtown hotels. Relatives have been finding ways to visit their families in cities long before the popularity of urban short-term rentals exploded, which was shortly after Airbnb was founded in 2008. I agree that the popularity of Airbnb indicates that many visitors would prefer to stay in neighbourhoods rather than in downtown cores, where hotels are typically found. I also see how short-term rentals may suit families better than conventional hotel suites. I hope the hotel industry will respond to these market signals and submit applications to the city that will meet this need, and that the city will view them favourably. However, given Vancouver’s chronically low vacancy rate, I don’t think the desire for visiting relatives to stay closer to families should be prioritized over the urgent need for more year-round rental housing. Also, under staff’s proposed rules, family-friendly entire units will still be available for short-term rental, it’s just that it’s likely there will be a significantly smaller number of them, because they will only be principal residences, not units dedicated to full-time STR.

I also take issue with the proponent’s use of immigrants to justify turning housing into tourist accommodation. Many immigrants have few resources when they first arrive in Canada and can’t afford to buy homes. That means they need rental housing and, like other tenants, probably can’t afford to pay the much higher nightly rates typical of short-term rentals. It’s true that some STR operators offer the option to rent by the month instead of by the night, but when that’s the case I’ve observed that those longer-term rates tend to be slightly discounted over what it would cost to rent the unit at the nightly rate for 30 days. That tends to be much higher than regular monthly long-term rates found for rental units on Craigslist.

As in many other cases I’ve seen, the proponents in this story seem to be arguing for looser regulations based on the quality-of-life benefits that operating an STR provides them with, regardless of the negative impact that has on others in this low-vacancy climate. While I agree with allowing entire homes or spare rooms to be rented on an occasional basis, I do not agree that the staff’s proposed approach should be more flexible, so that entire units can be devoted to full-time STR purposes, as is suggested in this story.

Finally, when considering the arguments for the benefits of short-term rentals, I urge you to be skeptical of claims, such as are often made by Airbnb or its proponents, that renting out a separate non-principal residence on Airbnb is the “only way” a given household can afford to live in Vancouver. Proponents arguing for a non-restrictive approach to STR regulation are advocating for a significant policy change that is likely to have far-reaching negative impacts on tenants, and typically that policy change is one that would directly benefit them financially. Yet they do not provide actual, verifiable evidence to support such hardship claims. I’ve noticed that those claims often falter under scrutiny or requests for proof.



Responses to Airbnb’s report on Vancouver listings

Yesterday (July 7), Airbnb released some long-awaited numbers on its Vancouver listings and “hosts.” Various people, including me, have called for Airbnb to provide these Vancouver numbers since last June at least, but despite the promises of greater transparency contained in its November 2015 “community compact,” the pattern is for Airbnb to not provide this type of data unless under considerable public pressure or threat of regulations that could limit or reverse its growth, as is now the case in Vancouver.

So here are some quick responses to what I see as some of the most salient points included and missing from Airbnb’s report.

What’s missing

The big question Airbnb won’t answer

There is arguably one question that everyone wants to know about Airbnb’s impact on Vancouver’s rental market and that is this: How many entire, self-contained units of housing (i.e. apartments, suites, houses, laneway houses) are being used exclusively as short-term rentals (STRs) through Airbnb? That is, how many self-contained housing units might be available for tenants if not for Airbnb and similar platforms providing an alternative means for property owners to earn income from residential properties? Airbnb could easily provide its own straightforward answer this reasonable question based on its booking data but it has chosen not to. Why?

Airbnb states in its report that “We are committed to being transparent with our data and information with cities to help them understand the home sharing activity in their city.”

It could follow through on this commitment by answering the question above and also by ceasing to cloud the issues by referring to renting and subletting as “home-sharing.”

I think a reasonable estimate of how many entire units of housing are dedicated to full-time STR use is just over 1,000 (1,022). This is based on the December 2015 Vancouver data Murray Cox has provided and posted on his site InsideAirbnb. Cox has set criteria for “recently and frequently rented” and “highly available.” If you go to his site and select “only entire units” and also check those other boxes, this is the number you’ll arrive at. Cox has provided his definitions and explanations of how he collected his data in the “About,” “Behind” and “Get the data” sections of his website.

Total listings

Airbnb has not said how many total listings currently exist. Again, it could easily do this, so the question is, why doesn’t it?

It has provided figures for “total booked listings” (and the different room types) for 2015 and going back to 2013, which is helpful, but why doesn’t it say how many total listings there are as of – say, July 1, 2016? This is a basic figure it would be useful for policy-makers to know – how many units of housing (of all room types) are currently listed on Airbnb.

Airbnb could still make a distinction between total listings and “active listings” and provide its definition of that term in order to distinguish “active” from new or dormant listings, but it chooses not to.

Neighbourhood data

Airbnb has provided totals for the city as a whole only, which does not shed any light on the areas of the city that are most affected by Airbnb. My data shows that the neighbourhoods that consistently have the most Airbnb listings (Downtown, the West End, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Fairview, and Grandview-Woodland) are also the areas of the city where most of the city’s rental units (and by extension, renters) are (see page 32 in this city report). Much of those areas are either zoned for multi-family housing and so have large supplies of purpose-built apartments,  or have a good supply of rented condominiums and/or secondary suites, the latter two of which housing types have been become increasingly important sources of rental housing during the past 30 or so years, when very little new purpose-built rental housing has been built. The overlap between the areas of the city that have the most Airbnb listings and the areas where most renters live is concerning given how many renters struggle to afford rent and how Airbnb’s business model provides a financial incentive to rent to tourists instead of tenants.

Comparison of the number of Airbnb units to total dwellings in the City of Vancouver

Airbnb’s report states that, “It is worth noting that, despite the year-over-year growth in listings that have been booked, only 4,400 entire home listings were booked in Vancouver in 2015 – which represents about a percent and a half of the total housing units in Vancouver.” This comparison is likely meant to allay worries about the impact that Airbnb is having on Vancouver’s rental housing supply.

What Airbnb overlooks and does not mention in this comparison is that all housing units (264,570) in Vancouver are not part of the rental market – in fact only just over half of them (136,135) were as of the 2011 National Household Survey. Further, the types of housing that are most likely to be used for tourist purposes through Airbnb are rented condos, secondary suites and rented houses (including laneway houses) and these make up a still smaller number of dwellings, at about 64,000 units according to various city sources (see here, for example). It seems more relevant to compare the number of entire units listed on Airbnb to these figures, rather than the entire stock of housing, about half of which is not available to tenants at all. Given that the city’s latest monthly vacancy rate was 0.6% for purpose-built apartments, and that the region-wide vacancy rate for rented condominiums was only slightly higher, at 0.9% (as of late 2015, according to CMHC), the number of entire units listed on Airbnb merits concern.

How hosts use the money they earn through Airbnb

Airbnb typically responds to criticisms of its negative housing impacts with references to how it helps the “urban middle class” afford their housing. In every city report that Airbnb puts out, it therefore includes a statistic on what percentage of hosts are using their Airbnb earnings to help “stay in their homes.” In Vancouver, Airbnb states that 53% of hosts “report being able to afford to stay in their homes because of the money they earned through Airbnb.”

But what Airbnb does not tell us is 53% percent of how many hosts? Is that 53 percent of all Vancouver hosts – or if not, how many did they actually survey and what was the response rate? This is typical of Airbnb in that when it releases figures, it often does not provide the information readers need to evaluate the quality and validity of the data: Where’s the whole number here? If the percentage is based on a sample, what was the size of that sample? Was it random or self-selected? Who conducted the survey? Was it Airbnb? If so, might that have had some effect on how respondents answered? It is well-known that Airbnb advocates for itself using the narrative that its “hosts” use their Airbnb income to pay for their own housing costs – people that earn money through Airbnb may be reluctant to diverge from that narrative. And obviously, with such a survey, there would be no verification of whether hosts actually do use their Airbnb income to pay their mortgage or rent instead of using it for any number of other purposes.

It is also notable that Airbnb makes no distinction between homeowners and renters when reporting this figure. Due to provisions in the Residential Tenancy Act prohibiting tenants from subletting without their landlords’ permission, it is unlikely that tenants are the main beneficiaries of the earning opportunities Airbnb provides, even though it is actually tenants who are most stretched to pay their housing costs. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 48% of Vancouver homeowners have no mortgage at all. Meanwhile, 46 percent of renters (but only 29% of homeowners) are paying more than 30% of their gross household income on shelter costs (which is how CMHC defines unaffordable housing). So, Airbnb may be helping some people afford their housing, but not the ones who are most in need of that help. And by providing a financial incentive (through higher nightly rates) to rent housing to tourists on a short-term basis rather than to tenants on a long-term basis, Airbnb actually makes things much worse for tenants, except perhaps for those lucky few who have landlords willing to let them sublet through Airbnb. Tenants who rent out their units without their landlords’ written permission risk eviction.

Airbnb also states that, “The vast majority of Airbnb hosts first choose to share their space to pay the bills. Nearly three-quarters of Vancouver hosts report choosing to host on Airbnb because they want to earn additional income.” I’m puzzled by the juxtaposition of those statements. The motivations of “paying bills” and “wanting additional income” are not equivalent. Also, “paying bills” is so vague as to be meaningless. The category of “bills” includes everything from mortgage, rent, utilities and groceries to credit card bills amassed through dining out, going on vacation or making luxury purchases.

Other points

Listing growth

Based on the “total booked listings” figures Airbnb has provided, those listings have grown from 1,800 in 2013 to 6,400 in 2015 – an increase of 255%. This is rapid growth, but not surprising. Based on my data collection (including Murray Cox’s December 2015 data), I found that total listings in the City of Vancouver grew from 2,900 at the end of November 2014 to 4,278 as of December 3, 2015 – a 63% increase. This is lower than the increase in total booked listings Airbnb reports between 2014 and 2015 (86%), suggesting that my figures are conservative (though they are not comparing the same thing since Airbnb hasn’t released total listings for a particular date).

Room type percentages

I note as well that Airbnb’s figures on the percentage breakdown of room types is consistent with the preliminary listing data I collected and published here in June 2015, as well as with the data provided by Murray Cox of InsideAirbnb. Over the three dates I analyzed in 2014-2015, I found that the majority of listings (about 70%) were for entire units, with another approximately 28% made up of private rooms and a fraction (about 2%) made up of shared rooms. Airbnb’s figures for 2015 are 69, 28, and 3 percent, respectively.

Frequency of bookings

Airbnb’s report state states that “the vast majority of listings – more than 80% – are shared for fewer than 180 days per year.”

I find this very interesting. Airbnb is saying that 20% of its listings are rented (“shared,” in their terms) more than 180 days – six months – out of the year. It says the listings that are rented more than six months of the year are a variety of types, but it doesn’t provide a breakdown of those. Airbnb also states that 4,400 of its total 6,400 “total booked listings” in 2015 were entire units. If 20% of those entire units were booked for more than six months, that would mean 880 entire units.

It also seems to me that given the nightly rates charged for Airbnb listings, it would be quite possible for a property owner to make the same amount of money through renting a unit for less than six months on Airbnb than they could make by renting to a tenant at average market rents for the whole year. The property owner could choose to rent through Airbnb for four or five months and leave the unit vacant the rest of the time, thereby entirely avoiding having to deal with tenants or fulfilling the various responsibilities of landlords under the Residential Tenancy Act, which does not cover vacation rentals. Therefore, the six-month threshhold Airbnb has chosen to highlight does not necessarily capture the entire picture when it comes to how its business model encourages the use of housing for tourists rather than tenants. 

Airbnb’s response to Vancouver’s rental housing shortage

In its November 2015 “community compact,” Airbnb acknowledges widespread concerns over its impact on cities with housing shortages and promises to work with those cities to ensure that it doesn’t make those shortages worse. However, when asked whether Airbnb is having an impact on rents by a Globe and Mail reporter, Airbnb spokesperson Max Pomeranc said, “If you’re renting your own home, and you’re doing this a few times a month or a few times a year, it’s hard for me to imagine how you’re having that kind of an impact.” This on the same day that Vancity Credit Union released a report saying that due to the high cost of rent in relation to renters’ incomes and low vacancy rates, “Renting is no longer a viable alternative to owning for many working households in Metro Vancouver.” Airbnb’s response to questions over its impact on Vancouver’s severe rental housing shortage does not instill confidence that it will follow through with steps to ensure it doesn’t worsen our abysmally low rental vacancy rates.

Further, Airbnb could easily and instantly remove listings posted by hosts/operators who have more than one entire-unit listing – meaning that that one of those listings is not a primary residence – but it chooses not to.

Other benefits claimed

Airbnb’s report states that “neighbourhood businesses are benefitting from an influx of visitor spending.” This may be true to the extent that if someone goes away and leaves their primary residence vacant while they’re away, there is no one living in that space and spending money locally during that time. In this scenario, renting the space to a tourist would induce more spending, though not necessarily more than if the tourist had stayed in a regular hotel. However, this benefit does not exist when someone chooses to devote a unit of housing to full-time STR use instead of renting to a tenant. Tenants spend money in their neighbourhoods too and ultimately, residents who live in and contribute to their communities in all sorts of tangible and intangible ways bring much greater benefits than temporary visitors.

Updated: Media coverage of Airbnb research

About time I updated the list of the media coverage of my Airbnb research that was prompted by my blog post of June 20, 2015: Airbnb listings in Vancouver: How many? What type? Where?

There are nearly 60 items in this list, most of which involved actual interviews and include quotes from me. In a few cases the items below have only references or links, not quotes. I lost track of the dates of a couple other radio interviews, unfortunately.

Below the list, I’ve also linked some mentions in blogs (not strictly news media) and local government or nonprofit reports, as well as a few public speaking items.

Homestretch of the thesis-writing now, fingers crossed.

Date Item
June 23, 2015 Councillors ask if 3,500 Airbnb listings are eating into Vancouver’s supply of rental housing in The Georgia Straight, by Travis Lupick.
June 23, 2015 Does Airbnb hurt Vancouver’s rental stock? SFU student mines data in Metro Vancouver, by Emily Jackson. (front page in print, June 24)
June 24, 2015 Increasing use of AirBnB may be cutting into Vancouver’s rental stock, Global News, Nadia Stewart, Justin McElroy
June 24, 2015 Is Airbnb eroding Vancouver’s rental market? at 8:20 p.m. on Global BC1.
June 24, 2015 CBC Radio Victoria, On the Island at 7:15 a.m.
June 26, 2015 Is Airbnb inflating Vancouver’s housing crisis? In The Globe and Mail, by Kerry Gold
July 3, 2015 World Cup 2015: Vancouver hotels are charging anything they want and there’s barely an Airbnb bed left in the city in The Georgia Straight, by Travis Lupick
July 3, 2015 KRPI Radio live with Jasbir Romana at 10:40 a.m.
July 9, 2015 Vancouver keeps an eye on Airbnb as company snaps up rental properties in The Vancouver Sun by Joanne Lee-Young. (A5 in print)
July 12, 2015 The Jill Bennett Show on CKNW. Live at 7:50 a.m.
July 12, 2015 Vancouver eyeballs Airbnb as rental properties snapped up in the Victoria Times-Colonist, revised version of Joanne Lee-Young’s Vancouver Sun story
July 16, 2015, Strata councils aim to contain short-term rental services like Airbnb, in The Vancouver Sun, by Joanne Lee-Young. (background)
July 16, 2015 The Simi Sara Show on CKNW, with guest host Michael Smyth. Live at 12:35 p.m.
July 25, 2015 Does Airbnb make it harder to find an apartment? On Day 6 on CBC Radio (national), by producer Acey Rowe
September 1, 2015 Tourism Vancouver pushing to extend hotel tax to Airbnb on CTV News by Jon Woodward
September 2, 2015 Tourism Vancouver considering extending hotel tax to Airbnb suitesin The Globe and Mail, by Sunny Dhillon
November 25, 2015 ‘This is not what the city’s housing is meant for’: Airbnb and Vancouver’s rental housing crisis in The Province, by Wendy McLellan
November 27, 2015 Not a business model our industry is embracing: Airbnbs crunch on Vancouver rental housing drawing calls for government regulation in The Province by Wendy McLellan
December 9, 2015 Airbnb could be taking 2,400 units out of Vancouver housing stock, study finds in The Georgia Straight, by Travis Lupick
December 11, 2015 Airbnb rentals growing in Vancouver, study reveals in Metro Vancouver, by Emily Jackson
December 2, 2015 Thousands of Vancouverites to sublet apartments over Christmas period in Vancouver Magazine
December 14, 2015 Airbnb and short-term rentals in Vancouver on the rise on Global by Tanja Beja
December 14, 2015 Guest on BC Almanac on CBC Radio BC. I was the only guest on this hour-long call-in program.
December 15, 2015 Is Airbnb taking too many homes off the rental market? on News1130
February 12, 2016 Regulate Uber, not Airbnb: survey on Global News, by Nadia Stewart
February 26, 2016 Is Airbnb butchering Vancouver’s rental market? in Vancouver Magazine by Jenni Elliott
March 2, 2016 Vancouver Airbnb listings increase as rental vacancies fall below 1 per cent on The Current, National CBBC Radio
March 9, 2016 Airbnb wreaks havoc on Vancouver rental scene in The Vancouver Courier, by Allen Garr
March 15, 2016 Airbnb puts squeeze on renters, affordable housing, environment in The Vancouver Courier, by Allen Garr
March 25, 2016 Airbnb’s popularity has North American cities on edgeIn The Vancouver Sun, by Bethany Lindsay
March 29, 2016 Airbnb’s popularity takes Vancouver by surprisein the Victoria Times Colonist, by Bethany Lindsay
March 30, 2016 Vancouver to investigate Airbnb’s impact on rental housing in Metro Vancouver, by Emily Jackson
March 30, 2016 Vancouver urged to clamp down on Airbnb as low-cost housing dwindles in The Globe and Mail, by Frances Bula
March 30, 2016 Airbnb private rooms not a threat to Vancouver housing market, say hosts in The Thunderbird, by Eva Uguen-Csenge
April 2016 Reno-viction, 11-minute Capilano film student documentary by Jonathan McLean
April 4, 2016 Rental housing is for residents, says Vancouver councillor eyeing Airbnb rules CTV News online, by Laura Kane (CP)
April 4, 2016 News 1130, radio news interview with Simon Druker
April 5, 2016 B.C. politicians dealing with competing interests in Airbnb debate in The Globe and Mail, by Frances Bula
April 5, 2016 Global BC1 Morning News (live) with Sonia Sunger
April 5, 2016 The Lynda Steele Show, CKNW at 4:45 p.m.
April 5, 2016 On the Coast, CBC Radio at 5:15 p.m.
April 6, 2016 How many Tri-City residents are on Airbnb? In The Tricity News, by Gary McKenna
April 11, 2016 City of Vancouver wades into heated short-term rental debate in The Vancouver Courier, by James Smith
April 20, 2016 Airbnb shows an easy fix for problematic listings, but will it use it in Vancouver? in The Georgia Straight, by Travis Lupick
May 10, 2016 Stressed Cities Try to Rein in Accommodation ‘Sharing’ Sites Like Airbnb in The Tyee, by Alexander Villegas
June 1, 2016 Is the City of Vancouver about to crack down on Airbnb?, in Vancouver Magazine by Max Fawcett
June 6, 2016 Vancouver’s top Airbnb earners are commercial hosts, by Frances Bula in The Globe and Mail
June 7, 2016 Latest study of Airbnb listings for Vancouver finds majority are operating as commercial businesses, by Travis Lupick in The Georgia Straight

Research cited in blogs and publications (aside from news media)

Other public speaking

  • November 25, 2015: Presentation at the Pacific Housing Research Network Symposium, Housing Justice Panel (BC Nonprofit Housing Association Conference)
  • May 10, 2016 Tofino Town Hall on short-term rentals
  • May 11, 2016 Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce stakeholder meeting

Sources for Tofino & Ucluelet presentations, May 2016

Here are the promised links for information mentioned in my recent presentations at Tofino’s town hall on short-term rentals and the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Note that for sake of time and brevity, I’ve sometimes just provided one source for the info, although there are often multiple sources. These links are provided for verification purposes and also as a starting place for future research for those who are interested. I have not included links to the descriptive statistics on Vancouver listings, because I have not yet published them, but some similar, preliminary data is in another blog post, here.

Slide 2: Worldwide growth in listings.

See these figures in my online spreadsheet with sources and dates.

For discussion of Airbnb’s projected profitability and future IPO prospects, see here:

The secret math of Airbnb’s $24-billion valuation

Here’s how Airbnb justifies its eye-popping $24 billion valuation

Sharing economy firms like Uber and Airbnb are burning cash at a phenomenal rate – but it’s ok

Slide 3: Examples of poor compliance rates in cities that have set up permit schemes

23% compliance in San Francisco, as of April 2016, even though Airbnb had considerable input into the drafting of the regulations and the rules have been in effect for about 2 years now.

10% compliance rate in Portland, as of the city’s February 2015 deadline

Also, City of Portland fines HomeAway in short-term rental crackdown

Slide 4: Concerns about loss of long-term housing

Spokesperson  Nick Papas: “We are a company founded on the belief that housing should be more accessible, more affordable, and more available.” And later in the same blog post…”Airbnb allows long time residents to stay in their homes by earning just a little extra money to help make ends meet.”

Similar statements…

Affordable housing is in the roots of our company.”

“Prop. F proponents say we are anti-affordable housing,” Chesky said. “It’s pretty weird because our founding story was to allow people to stay in their homes.”

The issue with all these statements is that Airbnb does not seem to understand (or chooses to ignore) how its business model affects different groups of people differently, i.e. owners and renters. So the questions to ask of all these statements are, for whom and at what cost?

Assignment and subletting provision of the Residential Tenancy Act (sec 34.1) states that tenants must have landlord’s written permission to sublet. The nonprofit group TRAC is an excellent free resource to refer tenants to, in case a landlord is trying to evict them in order to convert a unit to short-term rental.

Jurisdictions where regulations have been passed at least in part in response to concerns about Airbnb’s negative effects on the availability of rental and other affordable housing for residents.

—Los Angeles: Text of draft short-term rental ordinance, proposed by councillor Mike Bonin (April 2015). Also, the planning department’s guide to the proposed new ordinance.

—New York City

Statement by New York City Senator Liz Krueger to New York City Council, regarding city’s plan to increase fines for operating illegal hotels.

Illegal Hotel Complaints Up 62 Percent as City Council Grills Airbnb


—San Francisco: Recently proposed legislation.  Media coverage of proposed legislation

—Santa MonicaMayor Kevin McKeown (now a councillor): “When a landlord or other property owner takes a unit off the housing market and uses it for vacation rental, there is no permanent resident on the site, we’ve lost that part of the fabric of our community.”

This story discusses how the City of Santa Monica believes the number of illegal STRs has fallen from 1,762 to 966 as a result of its enforcement efforts.

—Amsterdam: “The presence of short stay residents in the city must not be at the expense of the quality of life in neighbourhoods, nor may it impact the availability of affordable subsidised apartments.” See also here.

—Barcelona See also here.

—Berlin: Planning minister Andreas Geisel: “We want to forbid apartments being taken from the rental market to make more profit.” The linked story discusses how short-term rental units in Berlin decreased by about 50% (to 6,700) in advance of an announced crackdown and an increase in fines to 100,000 euros.


Slide 5: Other tourism-oriented communities who have recently had to revisit their existing short-term rental regulations.—

—Aspen & other members of Colorado Association of Ski Towns




Slide 12: Common requirements in STR regulations.

The list was based on research I did for two blog posts, here and here.

Slide 14: Recommended resources

Local Governments and the Sharing Economy Report by One Earth (2015)

Airbnb, Rising Rent and the Housing Crisis in Los Angelesby Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (2015)

Airbnb in the City a report by the Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman (2014). The report is based on data the AG subpoenaed from Airbnb. This is the only case I know of where Airbnb has provided listing and booking data to a government agency. by Murray Cox has downloadable listings data for 30 cities around the world, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Tom Slee, sharing economy critic, collector of Airbnb listings data and author of “What’s Mine is Yours

Analysis of the impact of short-term rentals on housing, by the San Francisco Office of the Budget & Legislative Analyst (2015). Also see a 2016 follow-up report by the same office.

Also, not mentioned in the presentation, but some other recent stories and resources that may be of particular interest to people in Tofino and Ucluelet…

This Hawaii news re: attempts to rent out campsites on Airbnb.

The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry, by Georgios Zervas, Davide Proserpio and John W. Byers (January 22, 2014). Deals only with Texas hotels, but interesting.

CBRE Hotels Report: The Sharing Economy Checks In: An Analysis of Airbnb in the United States…Implications On Traditional Hotel Development And Market Performance Going Forward

And…some stories that illustrate why it’s good to be skeptical of listing info released by Airbnb – another reason why collecting your own data is a good idea.

Airbnb admits that it purged 1,500 unflattering New York listings right before data release.

Airbnb purged more than 1,000 New York listings to rig survey – report

Airbnb purged listings to create a rosier portrait, report says

Airbnb’s purged listings are already coming back


Public talk on the history of apartments and condos in Vancouver

Local historian Michael Kluckner is giving a public talk on the history of apartments and condominiums in Vancouver, on June 2. It’s a Vancouver Heritage Foundation event – tickets available here.

I’m posting the event here because I think that Airbnb (and other short-term rental sites) are now part of Vancouver’s housing story, especially the part about apartments and condos, and so will become part of its housing history, too. We’ll have to wait and see to what extent. I’m hoping to learn some things I can use in my thesis at this talk – and to eventually contribute some knowledge to the history of apartments and condos in Vancouver myself, through my thesis. I’m assuming Kluckner will draw on a key academic article about the history of condos in Vancouver, which I’ve mentioned elsewhereThe Condominium and the City: The Rise of Property in Vancouver, by Douglas Harris. The abstract is here.

I know Michael Kluckner is a good and well-organized speaker, based on a previous “brief history of” talk of his I attended a couple years ago on gentrification. That was held at SFU and you can view the video here.