New research suggests that house share services, such as Airbnb, may be taking up too large a share of the local housing supply in three of Canada’s largest cities, making it difficult for residents to find affordable housing.
The study, conducted by a team of urban planners from McGill University, found that a mere 10% of Airbnb house share hosts account for the vast majority of annual revenue—almost 50%—in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. The study also found a 50% increase in the number of short-term rental properties year-over-year. Said David Wachsmuth, the study’s lead author, “More and more of the money is being earned by a smaller and more kind of commercialized and sophisticated, large-scale set of hosts.”
Wachsmuth’s study, titled “Short-term Cities: Airbnb’s Impact on Canadian Housing Markets”, is reportedly the first comparative analysis of short-term rentals in major Canadian cities. It is based on data from Airdna, a data company that tracks the performance of Airbnb properties. The study says that there has been substantial growth in the category of full-time, entire-home house share listings, and that the majority of these listings belong to hosts with multiple Airbnb properties. These properties now number roughly 6,500 across the three focus cities. Toronto has been perhaps most significantly affected: growth in this category grew by more than 100% over thirteen months.
Airbnb, however, refutes the study’s findings. In a statement to the Toronto Star, Airbnb spokesperson Lindsay Scully said, “The author of this study has a history of manipulating scraped data to misrepresent Airbnb hosts, the vast majority of whom are middle-class Canadian families sharing their homes to earn a bit of additional income to help pay the bills.” She added, “The fact is, just 760 Airbnb entire home listings, or 0.07 per cent of the entire housing stock in Toronto, are rented frequently enough to outcompete a long-term rental, undercutting the author’s baseless conclusions about housing units removed.” Wachsmuth has said that he stands by his research, urging Airbnb to provide their data to his team of researchers.
Further research must be done to come to a satisfying conclusion about the impact that house share services really have on the Canadian real estate market—but it’s no secret that affordable housing has become a struggle in many major cities. The average house price in Canada as of June 2017 was more than CAD 600,000, a hefty price tag that is putting off Canadian would-be buyers.