With U.S. cities facing clear housing shortages, homes being used as short-term rentals on Airbnb and other platforms are drawing renewed scrutiny from residents and activists pushing cities to consider new regulations.
Data and maps of available listings gives a view of just how much those Airbnbs and other short-term rentals could be impacting neighborhood housing, even if it is widely acknowledged that it is not the only factor in the crunch.
Big cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have long had laws on the books regarding short-term rentals, yet, data shows, those big cities are still grappling with the long-term impact of STRs.
Others, like Dallas, have seen a notable increase in short-term rentals in recent years and recently set a timeline for new regulations surrounding them.
Since 2019, the number of active short-term rentals in the city has increased 56.6%, according to AirDNA, a company that collects and sells short-term rental data that includes listings from Airbnb and Vrbo.
Analyzing the Short-Term Rental Market by City
While large cities like New York and LA saw a fall in STRs during the pandemic, cities like Dallas,
Miami and Philadelphia saw an increase.
How Many Short-Term Rentals Are There?
Housing activist Murray Cox started the tracking project Inside Airbnb back in 2015, when he says he noticed gentrification and short-term rentals taking away housing in his Brooklyn neighborhood.
His Airbnb data collection project grew quickly as he started getting requests to cover other cities like San Francisco, Portland and London.
While Airbnb does not publicly disclose its data at a granular level, Cox is one of several researchers who track the company’s listings by independently gathering information from the site. Inside Airbnb provides their research to community groups and activists free of charge. It also does research for government agencies and other groups for a fee.
“Now I have data from 100 different cities and countries and I’m working on expanding it to thousands more,” he said. “The mission is to add data to help communities understand the impact of short-term rentals and Airbnb.”
He has also become a vocal critic of the company’s impact on communities.
As cities like Dallas and Austin became alluring places to live during the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in short-term rentals followed.
“Right now there’s a big fight with the residents,” said Cox about the state of STRs in Dallas.
Cox says his data shows that there are zip codes in Dallas where 90% of the available rental housing stock are Airbnbs and now people are pushing back. But, Airbnb says that the stat compares 2022 STR data against outdated 2016-2020 Census data and that the zip code being referred to is mostly made up of commercially zoned properties.
It should be noted that not all Airbnb listings are available year-round. Some hosts might only list their units for rent on the platform a few days per year. Airbnb says that most hosts are still just sharing one home and are not operating multiple STR properties.
“The truth is most hosts on Airbnb share just one home and the typical host in Dallas earned $7,800 in the past year to help cover the rising cost of living,” said an Airbnb spokesperson. “Airbnb has engaged with City of Dallas leaders over the past two years to support efforts to craft fair short-term rental rules, including an improved registration system to help the city with compliance and a tax collection agreement that allows platforms to collect and remit taxes on behalf of hosts.”
But Cox says that data shows smaller cities are not immune to the rise in STRs that was seen in big cities across the country.
“Sometimes small cities and towns can be more vulnerable because they have less resources and less housing,” he said.
A researcher with AirDNA, the other tracking company, said that there are fewer short-term rentals now than pre-pandemic nationwide, but many smaller major cities like Philadelphia, Miami and San Diego have seen increases in short-term rentals since before the pandemic.
How Housing Availability Stacks Up in Major Cities
Each point equals 1%. Some counties have housing vaccancies as low as 4% according to data from the Census Bureau.
How Do Short-Term Rentals Factor Into the Housing Crisis?
Housing experts like Davide Proserpio say that STRs like Airbnb contribute to the decreasing housing stock and rising rents. While there are other short-term rental companies in the market, Airbnb dwarfs any competition.
An assistant professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, Proserpio has conducted extensive research on the topic.
Proserpio says that areas with a lot of non-owner-occupied Airbnbs are the ones that should be looked at the closest. These are short-term rentals where the host does not stay in the unit.
“Basically if you have a non-owner-occupied unit, you were more likely to be renting in the long-term rental market and relocate it to the short-term rental market,” he said.
Former and potential landlords turned “hosts” make more money this way, he says.
But Airbnb pushed back and said that Proserpio’s study also found that short-term rental platforms can incentivize residential development and that not all short-term rentals are the result of a reallocation of the housing stock from long-term rentals to short-term rentals.
Where are Airbnbs in Major Cities Concentrated?
Airbnbs in purple are $150+/Night while Airbnbs in orange are under $150/Night. Use the dropdown to travel between cities.
Jamie Lane, a researcher at AirDNA, says that demand is another major element fueling the housing crisis. In big cities with more strict regulations like New York and Los Angeles, short-term rentals have seen a decrease but rental prices continue to climb to record highs.
“Cities with longstanding short-term rental rules, such as Boston, have found that in spite of the steep decline in short-term rentals, rents have soared and the city’s short-term rental ordinance was associated with an increase in rental costs,” Airbnb said. “Leading housing experts agree the driver of the increase in housing costs is because our country has simply not built enough housing– that’s why the cost of housing is up everywhere, for everyone. The focus needs to be on building more housing for people, and Airbnb wants to be part of that solution.”
In Manhattan, the average rent crossed $5,000 for the first time as median rent set a record for the fifth straight month, according to a recent Douglas Elliman report.
In New York City, renting out an STR without a host also being present in the unit for less than 30 days is not permitted in buildings with three or more units.
But despite strict regulations, Cox says that many hosts are skirting around the laws based on what he has seen as an activist working with communities across the nation.
Both researchers and activists like Cox acknowledge that STRs are only a part of the larger housing crisis.
What Are Lawmakers Doing to Address Community Concerns?
Unsupervised Airbnbs have led to well-reported issues with public nuisance and property destruction in areas across the country including Miami, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Airbnb says that they ask that their hosts not break any laws with their listings and recently introduced new methods to crack down on unauthorized partying which has fueled public complaints. Some of which have also led to deaths at Airbnb rentals.
“We ask all hosts to follow local short-term rental rules, and we’ve worked with many cities on specific compliance rules,” Airbnb said.
“Over the last decade, Airbnb has worked with hundreds of cities to put in place regulations that balance the economic opportunity short-term rentals create while also protecting housing and supporting local tourism, and we are committed to doing the same moving forward,” they continued.
Smaller cities are also starting to draft regulations of their own after seeing the growth in Airbnbs and other short-term rental services like Vrbo in their areas.
Some cities already have fines of over $7,000 per violation for ignoring the laws, but these laws are hard to enforce.
Cox says that hosts often don’t bother to register their rentals with the city, making it difficult to enforce laws and monitor the presence of STRs.
STR Regulations Are Unique in Each City. Here’s How They
Atlanta is another major city currently attempting to regulate Airbnbs and other STRs with an ordinance that limits hosts to only owning two short-term rental units with one being their primary residence. Hosts would also need to get a license.
The law was meant to go into effect earlier this year in March but the deadline has been extended twice. The city now says that the ordinance may require further consideration and the current enforcement date is set for Sept. 6, 2022.
Lane, who is based in Atlanta, speculates that the delays are due to a lack of compliance.
“There haven’t been many hosts actually getting their licenses,” Lane said. “They didn’t want to implement a law that no one was following to begin with.”
Airbnb Is Just One Piece of the Housing Puzzle
While short-term rentals are an issue for many legislators, Proserpio notes that even if Airbnb disappeared tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that those short-term rentals would become a part of the long-term housing stock.
He supports taking a broader view and weighing the good with the bad when it comes to short-term rentals. Airbnbs and other STRs provide taxes and revenue for cities that could be used to help address housing affordability issues.
“I know that many people and especially policymakers focus only on the negative aspects of Airbnb,” Proserpio said. ”I think that we should take into account a more holistic approach and try to understand all the effects that Airbnbs have been generating before creating policies.”
Copy edited by Andrew V. Pestano and Kelly Whitney