June 22, 2015

The Impact of Airbnb on rental housing in Vancouver

Another piece of research by Karen Sawatsky, whom PT has featured before (via Daily Durning) on Community Amenity Charges: “Back and forth on CACs” with Karen Sawatsky.”

Here’s her latest on the impact of AirBnB on rental housing stock in Vancouver:




Note: This post is really far too long (i.e. about 10,000 words, total) for the blog format, so here’s a pdf version with a table of contents but without active links or the data tables, which are only online.



Airbnb listings in Vancouver: How many? What type? Where?



As part of my urban studies master’s thesis research on Airbnb and rental housing in Vancouver, I’ve collected and analyzed some quantitative data on the number, type and distribution of Airbnb listings in this city (and to a lesser extent, for Metro Vancouver). This data hasn’t been publicly available before and I think it’s relevant to various ongoing discussions about housing supply and affordability in Vancouver so I’m posting it (and some comments on it) now, rather than waiting until several months from now when (fingers crossed) I will have completed and defended my thesis. ….


Airbnb listings in Vancouver and Metro Vancouver

Unless stated otherwise, data is for June 1.  Most of this information is for Vancouver because that’s the focus of my thesis, but there are some Metro Vancouver figures too.

Total listings

  • The number of Airbnb listings in the City of Vancouver increased by 17% from January 1, 2015, to June 1, 2015 (five months).
    – 2,978 to 3,473, for an increase of 495.
  • The number of Airbnb listings in Metro Vancouver increased by 19% in that same period.
    – 3,888 to 4,628, for an increase of 740.
  • Three-quarters of all Airbnb listings in Metro Vancouver are in the City of Vancouver.
    – 77% as of January 1 and 75% as of June 1. …


Taking action is within the city’s jurisdiction

To conclude, the city’s housing shortages (of social housing, affordable market rental and affordable ownership options) and the intense public concern over these issues mean that any factors or phenomenon that might affect local housing supply or affordability are worthy of investigation and response, as far as the city’s powers and budget allows. Many of the factors that have created these shortages – and that might mitigate them – are complex and largely beyond the city’s jurisdiction and influence: interest rates, and federal policies on housing, taxes and immigration being some of the key ones. The city does, however, have the ability to influence and respond to the proliferation of STRs and it doesn’t need permission from other levels of government do that.



A lot has been left out of the above, including links to maps and notes.  Go here for the full post.



Just to follow up on our chat, here are links to the recent media coverage of my thesis. … The coverage is in part due to the fact that Gordon kindly posted an excerpt of my blog post on Price Tags (thanks again!).

Georgia Straight: councillors-ask-if-3500-airbnb-listings-are-eating-vancouvers-supply-rental-housing

Metro News: does-airbnb-hurt-vancouvers-rental-stock-sfu-student-mines-data

Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. I was wondering why this issue is not coming up in the affordability debate. Lastweek my friend was evicted from his Strathcona suite after 8 years because the owners are remodeling the house and putting it on Air BnB. There are a lot of Air BnB’s popping up in the West End too.

  2. Your friends might want to contact the Tenants Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) at 604-255-3099 to see if they have grounds to dispute the eviction, if it’s not too late. And indeed, yes, the West End does have many Airbnb listings – 474 as of June 1st according to my data, second only to downtown.

  3. Isn’t AirBnB commercial use and as such, legally prohibited in most cities, as rental are usually defined as “longer than 6 months” ?

    [ I do understand it is widely abused and/or tolerated and/or not enforced ]

    1. Hi Thomas. Short-term rentals do contravene the zoning bylaws or other regs in many cities, including Vancouver, but as you said, until recently there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of active enforcement. That’s starting to change in some places. “Short-term” for these purposes is typically defined as less than a month or less than 30 days. Applicable section of Vancouver zoning bylaw is 10.21.6.

  4. Airbnb also increases affordability by providing additional income to home owners. Some people put a room in their condo or house on airbnb but may not want a permanent roommate. Or they rent out their entire place via airbnb when they are away. Many airbnb rentals probably don’t displace long-term rentals. Instead of penalizing or prohibiting services like airbnb it would probably make more sense to provide incentives for long-term rentals, such as tax credits on home improvements for home owners who rent out suites.

    1. or tax them quintuple the property taxes for that room (as a % of overall sq footage) as that is the current commercial zoning tax rate vs. residential.

      In heavy tourism places like Hawaii or Canmore this is strictly enforced. Why not in Vancouver ?

      If we wish to amend the zoning by-laws, fine, then let’s have that debate, but if the zoning says “residential” it clearly implies NOT commercial short-term rentals. I bet many ( most ?) don’t pay income taxes either on this rental income.

  5. This is a really fantastic article. I appreciate the effort that went into the research.

    There’s clearly the potential for AirBnB to be used as a platform for unregulated hotels, and for this to cut into apartments that would otherwise be rentable by locals.

    When used differently however, I think AirBnB is a reasonable service that benefits local hosts, tourists and the local economy. I’ve travelled using AirBnB a number of times, almost always at a home that was clearly the primary residence of the host. I really enjoy the service and it’s very useful for young tourists that don’t have a lot of money. There’s a lot of value to the service, and I think we’d actually be harming the local tourist economy if the City clamped down on AirBnB too harshly

    The city should be studying this intently to try to see how they can strike a balance that preserves some level of flexibility for local hosts while limiting uses that would be overly commercial and could cut into rental stock.