Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Property Managers, Not Private Residents, Allegedly Largest Airbnb Beneficiaries

Andrea Bellemare, CBC News:

A small number of commercial property managers generate a majority of Airbnb’s overall revenue, eating up available housing stock and driving up rent in Canada’s three biggest cities, a new study from Montreal’s McGill University concludes.

“Just 10 per cent of hosts account for a majority of the revenue and the nights booked on Airbnb consistently in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal,” said the study’s lead author, David Wachsmuth, a McGill professor of urban planning, in an interview on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Airbnb is already a mixed bag. I know of a couple of units in the building where I live that are more-or-less permanently available on Airbnb. That suggests that the signed tenants probably don’t live in those units, and are subletting them for a hotel-esque nightly fee. It’s not allowed, but it happens — and the Airbnb units are preventing me from upgrading my apartment.

But property managers doing the same is even worse. The incentives are aligned to do so: they might make as much money every nine or ten days from Airbnb as they would every month from a tenant. That makes it harder for people to find places to live in the city, and — according to Wachsmuth’s findings — likely makes it more expensive for them once they do.

The market for Airbnb and similar services — in fact, all “gig economy” services — is there. The question is whether they’re a true positive, especially from an ethical perspective.