Is a much-needed boost to Vancouver’s rental vacancy possible?

Is a much-needed boost to Vancouver’s rental vacancy possible?

Is a much-needed boost to Vancouver’s rental vacancy possible?

A new analysis by McGill University researchers has found that Vancouver’s rental vacancy can go up by as much as 1%, but this hinges on one crucial condition: if all 1,800 homes classified as full-time Airbnb listings prior to September 2018 are returned to the rental segment.

In the four months since the city’s new asset regulations were implemented on September 2018, a little over 300 homes were brought back to the market’s long-term rental supply, after previously being used as full-time Airbnb units.

The popularity of the short-term set up has deprived the rental housing segment of more than 31,000 homes nationwide. These units were used for Airbnb rental so frequently in 2018 that they have become unavailable as part of long-term rental supply.

Over the past few years, rental has become one of the Vancouver real estate market’s hottest sub-sectors, to the point where the vacancy rate fell to as low as 0.7% in 2016.

“The housing affordability and rental vacancy stats is systematically so much worse in B.C., including in the smaller communities, compared to the rest of the country,” according to David Wachsmuth of McGill University.

“If you look at the rest of the (census metropolitan area), the full-time listings have accelerated,” he told Star Vancouver. “It’s kind of two steps forward, one step back. Richmond and Surrey are now getting more of this activity.”

Wachsmuth added that the provincial and federal governments should step in with measures to address the problem, instead of just leaving municipalities on their own.

Airbnb disputed the findings and the supposed number of homes unavailable for long-term rental, arguing that the McGill University analysis cannot make an accurate assessment from data gathered only via Airbnb’s information published online.

“We don’t agree with the validity of that number,” Airbnb Canada director of public policy Alex Dagg said. “[They have] no way of knowing those houses or those units would ever be on the long-term rental market.”

“Without all the information, faulty assumptions are made about our hosts and how they use our platform,” communications officer Lindsey Scully added.