PEI

1 in 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown listed on Airbnb, analysis finds

One out of every 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown was listed for rent on the website Airbnb, according to an analysis of the site by CBC News.

2nd highest proportion among Canadian cities examined

'Responsible home sharing strengthens neighbourhoods,' says Airbnb. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

One out of every 50 private dwellings in Charlottetown was listed for rent on the website Airbnb, according to an analysis of the site by CBC News.

CBC News captured listings on the site for 17 Canadian cities on Apr. 10.

The 331 listings captured for Charlottetown represent 1.93 per cent of all private dwellings in the city. That's the second-highest proportion among all the cities included in the analysis. Whistler was highest at 18 per cent.

David Wachsmuth, a professor with the School of Urban Planning at McGill University, has been studying the short-term rental industry. He said even if just one per cent or less of a city's housing is converted into short-term rentals that will have a "really serious" impact on the availability of housing.

"That one per cent number looks small when you compare it to the amount of housing in general, but if you compare it to the amount of housing that's available for new tenants or new homeowners, it actually is a much, much higher percentage," said Wachsmuth.

"If you're a tenant … looking for an apartment to rent, it doesn't matter what's happening in 99 per cent of the houses that already have residents in them. What matters is what are the apartments that are vacant and available for rent."

Apartment vacancy rate falling

Charlottetown had a record low vacancy rate in 2018.

In November the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported the apartment vacancy rate for Charlottetown dropped to 0.2 per cent, down from 0.9 per cent the year before.

Airbnb declined an interview but said in a statement that "in any city with an Airbnb presence, homes listed on our platform account for a tiny percentage of the total local housing supply."

The company said it supports cities' efforts to protect the supply of affordable housing.

"Responsible home sharing strengthens neighbourhoods and generates meaningful economic impact for communities and our hosts," the company said.

CBC's data includes only listings where an entire house or apartment is offered for rental, not listings where part of a private dwelling is offered.

Not home sharing

CBC's analysis also found more than half the rentals for Charlottetown (56 per cent) were listed by Airbnb users who had more than one listing.

At the top of Charlottetown's list was a single user with 13 properties listed for rent. In bigger Canadian cities, the top Airbnb hosts aren't individuals looking to share their homes with visitors, but corporations listing as many as 238 rental units.

Even one per cent is a big number, says David Wachsmuth. (Radio-Canada)

"Most of what's happening on Airbnb isn't home-sharing," said Wachsmuth.

"It's something much more like commercial short-term rental operations."

The City of Charlottetown has passed first reading of a bylaw that would have the city apply its tourism accommodation levy on all vacation rentals, including those rented out through websites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Struggling to regulate the market

In January the city said it was working on developing further regulations with the province.

In P.E.I.'s recent provincial election campaign the PCs, Greens and NDP all pledged to introduce further regulations or restrictions on the short-term vacation rental industry.

PC leader Dennis King, who's poised to form a minority government, has suggested a limit on how many units in a new building can be devoted to short-term compared with long-term rentals.

"Maybe we have to get into the weeds a little bit on that because if not, if it's just the wild west that's allowed to proceed here, I think maybe the housing crisis will continue to grow," King said.

According to data from Statistics Canada revenues from the short-term rental industry grew by 6,500 per cent on P.E.I. from 2015 to 2018.

Like the CBC, StatsCan relied on data "scraped" from websites like Airbnb and its competitor VRBO to conduct its analysis. At the time StatsCan released its study, Airbnb disputed the figures.

"Tens of thousands of Canadians are embracing home sharing as a way to earn extra money and pay the bills and while we appreciate the interest in studying our community across the country, this report is based on inaccurate, scraped data provided by third-parties," said company spokesperson Lindsey Scully.

Airbnb said its hosts earned $11 million on P.E.I. in 2018. StatsCan said short-term vacation rentals in the province that year were worth $29.8 million, but that figure includes sales from other websites including VRBO.

More P.E.I. news

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