Canada National housing agency looks to Airbnb for help to boost number of affordable units

14:56  04 october  2017
14:56  04 october  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

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Critics admonished the housing authority for looking to Airbnb for affordable housing help , which they see as a culprit in housing supply shortages — not a lifeline.

OTTAWA – Canada’s housing agency is looking to an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing : Airbnb . The government’s upcoming national housing strategy will have a heavy focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing options, including rental units and


Canada’s housing agency is consulting an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing: Airbnb.

The head of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the company that’s mandated to help house Canadians, said Tuesday that Airbnb and other short-term rental companies like Vacation Rentals By Owners (VRBO) could help “spawn supply” of rental housing in the country.

“I think VRBO and Airbnb should get ahead of this, because they could be giving us some social utility,” the corporation’s CEO Evan Siddall told The Canadian Press.

Siddall said he opened up a conversation with Airbnb about potentially turning their large supply of short-term rentals into longer term rental homes, although he said it’s too soon to determine the details of how the platform could help with affordable housing.

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OTTAWA – Canada’s housing agency is looking to an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing : Airbnb . The government’s upcoming national housing strategy will have a heavy focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing options, including rental units and

OTTAWA – Canada’s housing agency is looking to an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing : Airbnb . The government’s upcoming national housing strategy will have a heavy focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing options, including rental units and

Toronto critics admonished the housing authority for looking to Airbnb for affordable housing help, which they see as a culprit in housing supply shortages — not a lifeline.

It’s like “the hens getting together to ask the fox to guard the henhouse,” said Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with the hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 75, and a founding member of Fairbnb, a coalition that advocates for stricter rules for short-term rental companies.

  National housing agency looks to Airbnb for help to boost number of affordable units © Provided by Toronto Star

Wieditz has heard arguments before that Airbnb and its competitors could help encourage homeowners to create legal “secondary suites” like basement apartments that would, in the long term, create greater long-term rental supply.

Wieditz doesn’t buy it though.

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OTTAWA — Canada’s housing agency is looking to an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing : Airbnb . The government’s upcoming national housing strategy will have a heavy focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing options, including rental units and

OTTAWA - Canada's housing agency is looking to an unlikely ally in a bid to boost the stock of affordable rental housing : Airbnb . The government's upcoming national housing strategy will have a heavy focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing options, including rental units and

“If the market is such that you can make much more on short-term rentals, there’s no way that these units will go back to the long-term rental market,” he said.

Lisa Marion, a Toronto Airbnb host who runs a company that helps others set up units for short-term rentals, said the hosts she knows don’t typically have long-term plans to put their spaces on the rental market.

“People Airbnb their units because the cost to buy them was so high they need to make that money back,” Marion said. “The units being rented out would never be considered ‘affordable housing’ even if they were back in the pool.”

Audrey-Anne Coulombe, a spokesperson with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said Siddall had a “high level conversation” with Airbnb executives, but has no plans for a partnership.

“CMHC . . . is always open to exploring innovative approaches to helping Canadians meet their housing needs,” Coulombe said.

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We looked at the units that have been available on Airbnb ’s platform for at least one year (between August 2015 and July 2016). Lodging tax revenues can help to fund affordable housing .

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She said Siddall was not available for an interview Tuesday.

Airbnb says its hosts typically share their homes on average up to 60 nights per year, earning themselves about $4,000 — figures that the company suggests aren’t high enough to support the idea that it is squeezing units out of the long-term rental market.

A McGill university study by urban planners showed 3,200 properties listed on the site in 2016 weren’t “principal residences” — meaning the people renting those spaces didn’t live there. The implication is that some or all of those units could have helped dilute the strained long-term rental market, had they not been listed on Airbnb.

“We take the issue of affordable housing seriously and that is why we are collaborating with communities and organizations across Canada, sharing comprehensive data and detailed information about our community,” Airbnb spokesperson Lindsey Scully told The Canadian Press.

The authors of the McGill study argued Airbnb could have a negative impact on rental prices.

“We’re not even close to the situation where there’s enough supply of rental housing to meet demand and when you’re in those very, very constrained situations, then even just a couple thousand units getting pulled off the market by Airbnb can have a really major impact on prices,” said lead researcher David Wachsmuth.

Scully did not reply to the Star’s requests for comment Tuesday.

With files from The Canadian Press

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