New figures highlight the potential impact of the vacation rental proposal

Illustration by Ashley Lewis and Adriana Heldiz, source data via Granicus

As City Council President Jen Campbell and stakeholders on both sides of the vacation rental saga prepare to debate yet another regulatory proposal, they grapple with an inconvenient truth: No one knows exactly how many of vacation rentals there are in the city.

Campbell predicted that his plan could reduce the number of entire home rentals in the city by at least two-thirds. But new data obtained separately by Voice of San Diego and the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst suggests Campbell’s proposal may not reduce the number of whole-home vacation rentals as much as it predicts. The new figures also provide a window into an industry hit by a pandemic that has decimated San Diego’s tourism industry.

Campbell will urge city council members on Tuesday to endorse a compromise she negotiated with worker groups and a vacation rental platform that caps entire home rentals at 1% of the city’s housing stock, and creates a stronger authorization process and enforcement system that allows the city to impose fines and revoke permits. The proposal includes an exclusion for Mission Beach, a long-standing vacation rental mecca, allowing entire home rental licenses for the equivalent of 30 percent of the neighborhood’s homes.

Campbell’s office, based on a report by a city auditor, estimates the city has about 16,000 vacation rentals. In comparison, the city reports that only 6,829 vacation rentals have been registered to pay hotel taxes in the city since last week, a number that does not include many rental operators whose tax bills are processed by rental platforms.

Campbell’s chief of staff Venus Molina says data discrepancies are another reason the city should pass regulations.

“The importance of establishing this ordinance is to create this baseline to actually collect the data that we need to actually know how much there is,” Molina said.

Republican Chris Cate, who has pushed his own regulatory proposals forward, agreed.

“Until we actually have a licensing system, the numbers will be everywhere,” Cate said. “Everyone will have assumptions or estimates. “

Campbell’s team did not attempt to guess how many whole house rentals there might be in the city, but the council president’s political speech would allow the city to issue around 5,400 whole house rental licenses, a figure based on the 540,022 housing units in town, for operators who wish to welcome guests more than 20 days a year. It would also provide an unlimited number of licenses for house-sharing operations, where the owner stays in place, and for whole-house and house-sharing hosts who host guests less than 20 days per year. The costs of the permits remain to be determined and the amounts set could also influence the decisions of the hosts on whether to continue to rent their spaces.

The first dataset VOSD has obtained is from Granicus, formerly known as Host Compliance, which the city once paid to help it track down rental operators who were not paying hotel taxes.

Granicus scraped through about 50 websites where vacation rentals are advertised and found 16,361 listings in the city as of mid-January. Of these, 81 percent were for whole house rentals. After factoring in listings on multiple sites, Granicus found 13,919 unique rentals, a number that includes both entire homes and shared accommodations. Here’s a breakdown of the top areas of the city where rentals are located versus the number of rentals for those same neighborhoods in 2017, when the company last provided data to VOSD.

In 2017, Host Compliance provided a citywide vacation rental tally. The company provided the same data in 2021, showing an overall increase in rentals since then. (Click to enlarge)

The latest data from Granicus shows the number of listed vacation rentals has increased since 2017 – from around 11,347 unique rentals in December 2017 to more than 13,900 last month – but the dataset the company provided to VOSD did not indicate how often those listed. rentals were recently rented, or how many entire homes were tallied after multiple site listings were removed.

If about 80 percent of the vacation rentals captured by Granicus’ analysis were entire home rentals – about the same proportion of entire home rentals as a percentage of the industry as in 2017 and of total listings in 2021 – this could mean that there are over 11,100 entire home rentals in the city.

This would suggest that Campbell’s proposal would cut the number of entire home rentals in the city by about half. But the proposal would not limit the number of entire house rentals that receive visitors less than 20 nights per year – and a certain percentage of hosts only occasionally welcome guests.

The independent budget analyst’s office looked at the volume of hosts who rent their homes less often to assess the impact Campbell’s proposal would have on the rental industry and on city hotel taxes.

Budget analysts analyzed 2019 data from Inside Airbnb, a website that tracks Airbnb listings, and spoke with the city’s treasurer’s office about hotel tax collection.

In 2019, budget analysts estimated that there were 11,302 complete home listings.

Analysts Baku Patel and Jeff Kawar noted in their report published Friday that vacation rental platforms and other sources have not shared data showing how often rentals are booked and what percentage of them are booked more or less than 20 days per year, a key trigger of the Campbell’s order. Patel said budget analysts used models estimating 15 to 25% of rentals were rented less than 20 days a year and spoke with industry experts who confirmed that range was solid.

Based on their assumptions about rentals booked less than 20 days per year and the number of permits available under Campbell’s proposal, Patel and Kawar estimated that the city could lose 1,651 to 2,781 rental listings. whole-house vacations, which would represent the equivalent of a 15 percent to 25 percent drop in whole-home listings. That’s less than the two-thirds drop that Campbell said would follow if his proposal goes into effect.

Budget analysts also estimated that the drop would lead to a 14-23% drop in hotel tax revenue.

In 2019, the city raised $ 31.5 million in hotel tax revenue on vacation rentals. Patel and Kawar estimated a drop in hotel tax collections from $ 4.4 million to $ 7.3 million had Campbell’s order been in effect, but noted that the pandemic could reduce the immediate budget loss given the continued pressure on tourism.

Data provided to VOSD by AirDNA, an analytics company focused on short-term rentals, reveals how the pandemic impacted the industry in San Diego – and how bookings changed month-to-month even before the health crisis.

AirDNA data shows vacation rental listings on Airbnb and VRBO platforms were down 28% in January compared to January 2020. The number of listings with at least one booking in January also fell by 39%. from 9,360 in January 2020 to 5,718 last month.

Here’s a look at how the number of active vacation rentals has fluctuated since 2019 and during the pandemic.

In December and January, the number of entire home rentals with at least one reservation fell below the nearly 5,400 permits the city would give annually to hosts who rent their homes more than 20 days a year. The number of Airbnb and VRBO listings for the whole house surpassed 6,500 every two months.

The difference is that the properties listed are not necessarily active short-term rentals.

AirDNA spokeswoman Kristina Sprindyte and Jonah Mechanic, whose San Diego-based company manages vacation rentals and has been defending rental operators for years, said a certain percentage of rentals have temporarily disappeared from the market because some hosts choose to use them in different ways during the pandemic.

For example, Mechanic said some hosts who live outside of San Diego most of the year chose to stay in their second homes during the pandemic as work and school moved online, or rented during the pandemic. weeks or months rather than for the shorter trips which were far more common in the past. Some of these homes remain listed on rental sites.

Mechanic said he hopes Campbell’s proposal will pass and give the vacation rental industry more certainty as the economy recovers.

He believes the ordinance is also needed to help the city accurately assess the number and types of vacation rentals available. In the absence of this information, Mechanic said, the impact of the regulations will not be fully clear until after they are implemented.

“I don’t think anyone will be able to give exact numbers until the dust finally settles on this,” Mechanic said.

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