Housing supply

Airbnb rentals are seen as a drag on Peterborough’s supply of rental accommodation

Peterborough’s vacancy rate could nearly double if short-term rentals, which include houses, apartments and single rooms, are added to the potential pool of rentals in the city and county of Peterborough.

The vacancy rate was 2.6% for 2020, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but local housing advocates say the rate could improve if short-term rental properties are replaced with new ones. long term rentals for residents.

Listings available in Peterborough on the Airbnb website range from 125 to 138 properties, including full house rentals and rooms.

Prices range from as little as $50/night to over $400/night, with some having minimum requirements for reservation lengths and some rentals being limited to weekends only.

Around 80 listings are full homes or second apartments/suites that can accommodate families, while around 30 listings are rooms with shared living quarters, which include bathrooms, kitchens and recreation areas.

This represents approximately 110 listings that could be added to the rental stock, providing more options for people looking for better accommodation.

According to the latest CMHC survey, the Peterborough area has approximately 6,552 rental units across the city, with the current vacancy rate standing at around 170 vacant units.

Adding the Airbnb units to the market would increase the vacancy rate from 2.6% to around 4.25% and increase available units to around 280.

Short-term rentals displace people and prevent rents from being more affordable, according to Jim Russell, CEO of United Way Peterborough and District.

“More available accommodation is being used for Airbnb, it’s not part of an equation to solve homelessness or the housing crisis in Peterborough, it’s not houses, it’s hotels, it’s temporary,” Russell said.

“If houses and apartments are used for Airbnbs, they don’t house people permanently, so that competes with the ability to provide safe, affordable and accessible housing for people.”

He said short-term rentals limit available stock, driving up rents, pushing some people out of the housing market and, in some cases, into precarious housing or homelessness.

“This underscores the importance of being more active at the federal, provincial and municipal levels in building affordable rent-geared-to-income housing,” Russell said.

“For landlords, it may be easier or more tempting, in terms of profit margin, to use the property for an Airbnb and not provide long-term housing.”

Based on 15 nights per month, someone renting a spare room for $50/night would earn $750, while renting a house for the same period at $400/night would earn $6,000, according to the prices examined. .

There’s a growing number of people buying purpose-built homes for residential use and turning them into short-term rentals, said Thorben Wieditz, director of Fairbnb, an advocacy organization in Toronto that focuses on rental regulation. short term.

“Airbnb has taken a significant percentage of the housing stock off the market, making it harder for people to find long-term housing options,” he said.

The pandemic has shifted demand for short-term rentals from urban areas to more rural areas, creating demand in cities like Peterborough with limited housing options, Wieditz said.

“We are seeing an increase in short-term rental activity and a shrinking housing stock caused by short-term rentals in smaller municipalities and townships adjacent to larger urban centers in Ontario, he said. he declares.

“This contributes to the lack of available and affordable housing for people who need to live and work there long term.”

In an email, Airbnb said the company is supporting the economy and encouraging people to supplement their income using their homes.

“Short-term rentals support Peterborough’s local economy and provide residents with a way to supplement their income,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.

“Airbnb is focused on supporting the return of the local tourism economy by allowing residents to supplement their income by home sharing and working with elected officials on sensible policies.”

Limiting the number of short-term rentals in the area is impacting people trying to find affordable housing, said Paul Armstrong, author of Housing is Fundamental Report.

“The percentage of renter households spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs in 2016 (the last census year reported), the rate reached 52.5%,” he said.

Renting a three- to four-bedroom home could cost between $2,000 and $3,000 a month in the long-term rental market, based on listings on Kijiji.ca, he said.

Between 2011 and 2016, around 480 homes were built in the Peterborough area, or less than 100 per year.

People who try to find accommodation when options are limited tend to take whatever is available, which might not meet their needs, be infested with bugs, or be too expensive, leading to precarious housing. housing, Armstrong said.

He called it worrying to see properties confined to short-term rentals in a housing crisis.

“There’s a growing trend of Airbnbs moving affordable and accessible housing for people in our community and it’s troublesome,” Armstrong said.

“We need to accelerate the pace at which we develop affordable housing for people relative to their income, not relative to the market.”

mbarker@peterboroughdaily.com