Airbnb took at least 31,000 homes off the market for Canadian renters last year

By: Jessica Mach on June 24, 2019

Thirty-one thousand homes in Canada that could have been used as long-term rentals were listed on Airbnb instead last year, according to a study by McGill University’s School of Urban Planning.

These 31,000 listings, which were for entire homes as opposed to a selection of rooms within a home, were rented by enough Airbnb guests in 2018 that they were “unlikely to house a permanent resident,” the study said. The number of homes across the country that were listed on Airbnb for more than half the year (183 nights) increased by 40% last year.

Predictably, British Columbia and Ontario’s rental markets felt the most pressure from what the McGill studied referred to as frequently listed entire-home listings (FREHs) — entire homes that are listed for more than half the year. Cities in both provinces saw high levels of FREHs coupled with low vacancy rates for long-term rentals, making it a challenge for local residents to secure long-term housing.

But Canada’s rural residents are starting to feel the heat, too. In 2018, the number of Airbnb listings for units in rural areas grew by 44% year-over-year compared to 19% in large cities and 42% in smaller cities. A staggering 95% of the revenue generated by rurally-located Airbnbs came from FREHs, compared to 86% of total Airbnb revenue from a census metropolitan area (which has a population of at least 100,000, according to Statistics Canada) and 89% of total revenue from a census agglomeration (an area with a population of at least 10,000).

It’s likely that many of these units were listed by commercial operators who manage multiple listings. Nearly 50% of Airbnb revenue in 2018 was made by commercial operators, said the McGill study, even though Airbnb continues to market itself as a home or room “sharing” service.

Airbnb listings are disproportionately concentrated in Canada’s three largest cities: while Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto make up 36% of Canada’s population, they account for 46% of all Airbnb listings.

The authors of the McGill study recommend that provinces and cities take a more proactive stance when it comes to regulating short-term rental activities, so that long-term rentals continue to be available to local residents. In 2017, Vancouver introduced regulations for the city’s short-term rental market, which essentially banned listings for FREHs. Toronto, another city with notoriously low vacancy rates, followed suit shortly after.

The study’s authors said that it is still too early to determine whether these regulations have been effective.