Airbnb offering $250 for new hosts in rental-squeezed Vancouver

Friday, August 26th, 2016

SHORT-TERM RENTALS: Promotion coincides with report to be delivered by city staff at the end of September

The Province

With more than 4,200 registered listings in the Vancouver area, Airbnb has been blamed for constricting an already squeaky-tight rental market.

But the company is still on the hunt for new hosts — and is now offering cash incentives for people listing their property for rent on its website for the first time.

In an email campaign circulating this week, Airbnb is offering $250 for first-time hosts in Vancouver who sign up and complete at least one booking by Sept. 30. It also put details of its plan on its website.

The company is the leader in short-term and vacation rental accommodation, accounting for almost 85 per cent of the nearly 5,000 active listings in Vancouver alone — which has triggered a review by city hall into how to limit its impact on rental housing. The city is currently experiencing a record-low rental vacancy rate of just 0.5 per cent.

Airbnb’s new campaign appears to be limited to the Metro Vancouver and Toronto areas, two Canadian cities where major concerns have been raised about the impact of the short term rental service on the general rental market.

Vancouver doesn’t allow short-term rentals of residential units for less than 30 days unless the owner operates a bed and breakfast. Despite the regulations, the room-rental service is popular with homeowners and some rental companies that list multiple units. 

In its promotion, Airbnb suggests new hosts could earn up to $2,309 per week if they rent out an entire house with two bedrooms. The company takes a three-per-cent commission.

In early July, Airbnb released limited data that showed its service has more than tripled since 2013, rising to 6,400 bookings annually in 2015 — including whole houses, rooms and shared accommodations.

The data, released in response to a city request for information, said that a third of the listings were between one and 30 nights in 2015, with another one in five being rented for between 31 and 60 days, and another one in five being rented for half a year. About 11 per cent of listings were rented for more than 60 days but less than 90.

A third-party review released by the city a short time later showed more than 5,000 properties listed as available for short-term rentals on 10 platforms, including Airbnb, VRBO, Owners Direct and Flipkey.

The city commissioned the review as one part of a city council motion in April to look at the impact short-term rentals are having on the availability and pricing of rental stock.

At the time, Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs called the initial findings “worrisome”.

The deadline for Airbnb’s new promotion, Sept. 30, appears to coincide with timing of a report city staff are expected to deliver to council. 

Calls to Airbnb and Meggs for comment were not returned by deadline.

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