New study: Airbnb listings have minimal impact on Portland’s housing affordability crisis

New analysis finds entire home units rented out full time make up less than 0.03% of the City’s housing units

According to a new report today from ECONorthwest, if all of Airbnb’s entire home unit hosts in Portland suddenly stopped renting out these spaces, it would do very little, if anything, to affect the trends that are driving rising rents.

The ECONorthwest analysis, commissioned by Airbnb, concludes Airbnb has only minimal impact on the housing market given the larger dynamics of the market and the scale of Airbnb’s impact on available supply.

“ECONorthwest reviewed the most recent 12 months of Airbnb booking data and found that Airbnb’s activities in the City of Portland have minimal impact on the current affordability crisis. Frequently booked Airbnb units comprise a tenth of one percent of the total City of Portland housing stock,” said Mike Wilkerson, senior economist with ECONorthwest. “Policymakers should consider trade-offs between the supplemental income earned by local households that host, visitor spending to neighborhood businesses, the incentives for housing unit creation provided by Airbnb, compared to its minimal impact on overall housing affordability.”

“We are committed to working with the City to promote responsible hosting and protect long-term housing stock in Portland, including continuing to proactively remove unwanted commercial operators,” said Cynthia Wang, public policy manager for Airbnb. “Home sharing helps making housing more affordable for hundreds of Portland families. In fact, the money earned through hosting helped an estimated 250 Portland hosts avoid foreclosure or eviction last year.”

The ECONorthwest study’s findings include:

  • If all of Airbnb’s entire home unit hosts were to suddenly decide to stop renting on Airbnb, it would do little, if anything, to affect the trends driving rising rents.
  • Entire home listings within the City of Portland make up a tiny fraction of the City’s total supply of housing units. These 2,976 entire home listings make up 1.1 percent of housing units in the City. The vast majority are rented infrequently. 87 percent of entire home listings are rented for fewer than 180 nights and 42 percent are rented between 1 and 30 nights a year.
    • Only a small subset of entire-home listings, 83-377 listings or 0.03% of the city’s housing units, are booked full-time.
  • Airbnb entire home listings are not necessarily housing units. Because Airbnb hosts self-categorize their listings, there are private suites, converted basements and attics, legal hotel and B&B rooms, and other spaces identified by hosts as an entire home on Airbnb that are not equivalent to a unit that could be otherwise available to long-term tenants. Some portion of the 83-377 units falls into this category.
  • Many Airbnb listings are not permanently on the market. Of listings that were active in January 2015, only 53 percent were still active in September 2016.
  • The ability to generate income through short-term rentals can incent long-term housing creation. Many units created for initial short-term rental use will convert to long-term use, adding to total housing stock.
  • Market rents near Airbnb listings indicate they would not otherwise rent at affordable housing price points. 
  • Short-term rental units play an important role in the hospitality industry. Short-term rental units fill a niche for people looking for specialty housing, such as business travelers, families and people looking for gap housing between long-term rentals, as well has helping to accommodate visitors during peak periods.

Read the full analysis