Airbnb: short-term rentals, short-term thinking


The idea of home sharing is a great one. Cities thrive on density, on different people doing different things but in close proximity to each other. If one family leaves town for a week, there would be nothing better from the city’s perspective than to have another family temporarily take their place. And this doesn’t even account for the individual financial benefit to the family renting out their home, or to local shops that gain new, temporary, patrons. Home sharing can be a true win-win for cities and communities. In the last decade, short-term rental services led by Airbnb have exploded across Canada and the rest of the world, offering just such a promise. This promise has not been realized, however. Our research on the short-term rental market in the Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver metropolitan areas reveals an increasingly concentrated, commodified landscape in which a few large players are making large amounts of money. Small-scale home sharing is a modest and shrinking piece of the market, and long-term housing for residents is being converted into de facto hotels. Canadian cities should respond to these facts by severely restricting the ability of commercial operators to make money converting long-term housing into short-term rentals. This could create the space for more equitable forms of home sharing to thrive.

Canadian Dimension, 51(4)
David Wachsmuth
Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance

My research interests include urban governance, local sustainability, and the impact of short-term rentals on housing markets.