Airbnb plan to expand listings bad for Vancouver housing market: expert

By Robyn Crawford

Airbnb’s plans to expand listings by convincing more people to turn their homes into short-term rentals could hurt the Vancouver housing market, an expert says.

Shauna Brail, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, says having a lot of Airbnbs is one of many reasons why the city has become so unaffordable.

“They remove rental housing for longer-term rental stock and as a result push up the price of housing for renters,” she explained, adding the move by the company could further cut the number of permanent homes available.

On Wednesday, Airbnb announced new incentives to attract more hosts. They include things like increasing the amount of liability coverage for hosts, up to $3 million and also pairing newbies with a “superhost” to guide them through the process of becoming a short-term landlord — from signing up through welcoming their first guest.

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But what more short-term rentals will do to the market isn’t the only concern. Brail says she worries about what an increase in listings in major cities, like Vancouver, would do to the sense of neighbourhood.

“When you move units to short term rental markets, it means somebody who’s looking to rent a home or even to purchase a home doesn’t have that opportunity,” she explained.

While many municipalities have regulations on short-term rentals, Brail says more needs to be done on the municipal and provincial level to deal with this issue.

“When I hear that there is a change in policy and looking for new ways to attract revenue opportunities, it means there is also a need for government to act,” Brail told CityNews.

In a statement to City News, the Ministry of Housing says it’s working to help municipal governments manage the situation around short-term rentals.

“The province is working closely with local governments and UBCM to increase affordable housing across B.C. The Office of Housing and Construction Standards, under the Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing, is leading the ongoing research for the options regarding short term rentals as part of this critical work,” an email reads.

This month, Airbnb reported a record $1.21 billion profit for the third quarter.

Its stock fell, however, because earnings and bookings were less than what Wall Street expected. The company gave a cautious fourth-quarter outlook.

Investors worry that consumers paying more for food, gas, and housing, and facing predictions of recession will cut back on discretionary spending like travel, hurting companies like Airbnb.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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