Airbnb, fighting concerns that its rentals may squeeze an already tight rental market and worsen local housing affordability by turning homes into perennial short-term rentals, says nearly 80 percent of its listings here for full homes are rented less than 90 days a year.
Airbnb, fighting concerns that its rentals may squeeze an already tight market and worsen local housing affordability by turning homes into perennial short-term rentals, says almost 80 percent of its listings here for full homes and apartments are rented less than 90 days a year.
That suggests most of their owners aren’t making a financial killing and keeping houses off the market, but are renting them out for part-time use to make some extra income, according to data the company released Thursday.
Airbnb in Seattle has not become as contentious as in San Francisco, where the company spent heavily to defeat an initiative that would have curbed its services. The company here has pledged to work with local governments — including making sure rental owners pay their taxes.
The report outlining Airbnb’s impact in Seattle is a step toward that commitment, said spokeswoman Alison Schumer.
In its report, Airbnb said 80 percent of the people renting out space in Seattle are doing so with a home in which they live, renting their spaces temporarily while on vacation or away for work or other reasons.
Schumer said Seattle had almost 3,000 “entire home” listings that hosted Airbnb guests between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015.
Because of the nature of renting a single room within a home, the report focused on entire-home listings. An “entire home” can be a house, apartment, condo or an accessory unit like a small bedroom over a garage, or a portion of a home that has a separate entrance, Schumer said.
Airbnb compared the average long-term rental income in Seattle of such living units ($1,897 per month) with the short-term rental income ($145 per night). It says that on average, an entire unit in Seattle would need to be rented short-term on Airbnb for 157 days per year to make the same amount of money as having a long-term tenant.
The report said 296 of the almost 3,000 listings — just under 10 percent — are rented above that threshold.
“This data shows that hosts are renting short-term for less money than they could earn on the long-term market, suggesting that hosts are not materially decreasing the housing supply,” the report said. “A few thousand families — less than 1% of the Seattle population — sharing the home in which they live is not a significant driver of housing prices.”
Mayor Ed Murray said in a phone interview that Airbnb, as it is supposed to operate — somebody renting a spare room or space while on vacation — does not affect the city’s housing market.
However, he said, “If someone is using their residence as a business, that is something the city would look into.”
Some housing advocates said Airbnb’s impact on the city’s affordable-housing stock bears watching.
John Fox, coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, an affordable-housing and homeless-advocacy group, said his organization hasn’t received any complaints about Airbnb’s effects on housing.
“However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem (or not about to become one),” he said in an email.
Fox said the mayor and City Council should commit to doing a study of Airbnb-style rentals and make recommendations for regulating the industry, “so it doesn’t become a problem — if it isn’t already.”
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While the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance has not taken a stance on Airbnb’s operations in the city, Michele Thomas, director of policy and advocacy for the organization, said she also thinks it would be worth the city’s looking into it.
Liz Etta, executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, said she has not heard a lot so far about Airbnb’s operations in the state.
But she added, “With our city mirroring the early days of San Francisco’s housing crisis … I feel that Airbnb issues will become more prevalent.”
Peter Orser, director of the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, said he does not think the Airbnb market is significant enough to disrupt the city’s affordable housing.
“I just don’t think at this stage of the game, particularly in Seattle, [Airbnb] is a major detractor from affordable-housing opportunities,” Orser said. “A good portion of those products would not be rented for full-time housing, and the remainder is relatively small compared to the hundreds of thousands of units that are in the city.”