Airbnb impact on rents, hotels in Victoria minimal, analyst says

A company that tracks and analyzes Airbnb data says the home sharing service is being unfairly blamed for rental housing shortages.

Analyst says home-sharing organization unfairly blamed for rental housing shortage

Consultant Jay Wollenberg estimates Airbnb listings take about 300 units out of Victoria's rental housing market. (Airbnb)

Airbnb isn't to blame for rental housing shortages, and measures to reduce the number of home-share listings won't fix the problem.

That's the view of Tom Caton, CEO for Airdna, a company that analyses information on Airbnb rentals including occupancy rates, revenue and seasonal demand.

"We set up the company, me and my co-founders who were all hosts and there was no data," Caton told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. 

 Airdna is among a growing number of companies piggybacking on the popularity of Airbnb to provide related services. 

Airdna co-founder Scott Shatford was fined earlier this year for operating short-term Airbnb rentals in Santa Monica, California, in violation of that city's ban.

Airdna 'scrapes' data daily from all Airbnb listings in more than 4,000 cities around the world. It counts only 'active' listings, which are defined as those which had a confirmed reservation in the previous month.

Caton said Airdna's analysis is more reliable than other methods of measuring the market in part because it collected data on Airbnb prior to October 2015 when the company stopped showing the exact reservation information on their website.

The company's lead developer then created "a machine-learning algorithm" to compare historic reservations with the current data set. It has also provided data for outside analysts including the hotel industry research company CBRE Hotels  and fivethirtyeight.com

A City of Victoria staff report recommends increased efforts to license Airbnb and other short-term rentals while gathering more information on the practice. (Airbnb)

 ​Caton said concerns in cities like Vancouver and Victoria about the negative effects of Airbnb on the rental housing supply or the hotel industry are overestimated.

Last month the general manager of the 200-room Inn at Laurel Point estimated there are about 1,000 Airbnb listings in Victoria that compete with the local hotel industry — without paying similar fees and taxes.

Meanwhile, a recent consultant's report to Victoria city council estimated that Airbnb rentals take about 300 units out of the long-term rental housing pool.

Caton said his company's data showed there were only 422 active listings for self-contained units in Victoria in the previous month. 

Impact on rentals, hotels overestimated

"When we really drill down to what is the hotel room equivalent, when we look at the reservations, we have 5,900 reserved listing nights," Caton said.  

That would equal 191 hotel rooms at 100 per cent occupancy for the month, he said.

For Airbnb listings that could otherwise be long-term rentals the number was even smaller, Caton said, "I would estimate, given the people that we speak to in the industry, we're talking about 100 apartments that perhaps are not available to the residents of Victoria." 

There are concerns around the world about the impact of short-term rentals on cities around the world.

Kyle MacDonald and his fiancée were caught in an Airbnb crackdown when the key fob for their Vancouver rental stopped working and they were locked out of the building. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Last month Airbnb struck agreements with London and Amsterdam to limit the number of nights hosts can offer short-term rentals in those cities.

The limit for each homeowner to rent out a property in Amsterdam will be set at 60 days a year, and in London at 90 days a year.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson unveiled a possible plan for the city last month.

Efforts to rein in Airbnb

Caton, whose office is in Barcelona, Spain, said his company's data shows all efforts to reduce Airbnb rentals have so far been ineffective in curbing short-term rentals. 

"It's really strange how difficult cities have found it, to regulate and enforce Airbnb," he said. "We track listings all over the world and there's been some Draconian measures here in Barcelona, in Berlin and other cities.

"We have never seen a fall in the number of nights booked after any of these measures."


To hear the full interview on CBC Radio One's On the Island  go to Airbnb impact on rental housing, hotels minimal, analyst says.