Data project blames short-term rentals for strangling Victoria’s housing market

The unregulated stock of short-term rental accommodation in Greater Victoria – like Airbnbs – has stifled the city’s rental housing market according to local and American civic advocates.

Since 2016, Inside Airbnb has tracked the number and variety of Airbnb listings in Greater Victoria. “The picture is very similar to many cities around the world,” said founder Murray Cox of New York. Greater Victoria has 3,156 Airbnb listings, of which 2,688 or 85% are entire homes or apartments.

Whole house listings include nearly the 2,900 additional units needed in the City of Victoria between 2020 and 2025 to meet growing housing demand, according to the Capital Regional District Housing Needs Assessment for the City of Victoria . They’re also contributing to Victoria’s below-optimal rental vacancy rate of 1%, which ideally should be 3-5%, Cox said.

“(Airbnb) sells itself to have hosts; you can live like a local with a local. But the reality is that Airbnb is taking homes off the market.

Nearly half (46%) of Airbnb hosts in Greater Victoria have multiple short-term rental units. The top three have 128 ads between them. “There are people building real estate portfolios, whether they’re in apartment buildings or single-family homes,” Cox said.

Victoria Adams describes herself as a low-income senior, a tenant in Victoria for decades, and a former active housing and civics advocate. In 2016, Adams said Victoria staff had paid Vancouver real estate and urban economics firm Coriolis Consulting to produce an “opinion piece” regarding Airbnb units in Victoria. The consultancy firm wrote that the 945 whole unit listings at the time had no impact on the availability or affordability of the rental stock in Victoria, which at the time had a vacancy rate of less than 0 .7%.

Despite these findings, Adams formed a petition with 1,121 signatures in 10 days calling for a ban on unregulated short-term vacation rentals, to which the city has not responded with a policy.

Cox said there are several potential policy solutions to short-term rental housing market pressure in any given housing market. They include banning non-hosted short-term rentals or an annual cap on the number of days a host can be away from their short-term rental.

A record of short-term rentals is important for this job, Cox said. If the province were to put one in place, each city could define how its stock of short-term rentals is used.

“Tourism is important, but the city really has to decide how to balance it with the needs of residents and the people who live and work there. I don’t think that converting residential accommodation into tourist accommodation in a free market approach is the best way to achieve this.

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