By Victoria Adams
Victoria is the most popular tourist destination on Vancouver Island. Especially with its rampant multi-billion dollar, online home-sharing service platforms, such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc. Who cashes in on this real estate boom? Investors. They convert entire condos and single-family homes into revenue-generating accommodation in the downtown core and nearby neighbourhoods.
The City is in a serious housing crisis exacerbated by low-cost credit, restricted supply of affordable housing, soaring land value, a vacancy rate of less than 0.7%; and, redevelopment of properties into luxury lifestyle residences. In this context, tenants who comprise almost 60% of households, now face the 7th highest one-bedroom, monthly rental rate in the country ($1,250)—up more than 7% since this time last year.
The choice of available rental accommodation in Victoria is limited, as thousands of students return for classes, and young families and working individuals seek reasonably-priced shelter. Secondary-suites in homes are disappearing; entrepreneurial home-owners convert garden areas into accessory housing, or rent out their entire property to paying guests.
According to July 2018 data, (provided by third-party monitoring site, InsideAirbnb.com1), there are 3,345 short-term rental listings in the Capital Regional District, of which 34.9% (or 1,169 listings) are in the City of Victoria. The data reveals that 85.4% of the city’s short-term rental listings are for entire units, an increase of more than five per cent since last year. An entire place (most often a condo or an entire house), located in Vancouver last year, rented for an average of $873 a week ($538 a week in Victoria), according to information collected from the Airbnb website.2
Of 1,169 short-term rental units in the City of Victoria this year, more than 400 listings are in the downtown core, followed by 185 short-term rental listings in James Bay (a neighbourhood where 70% of households rent); 133 short-term rental units in Fairfield (where 55% of households rent); and, 122 listings in Fernwood.
In other words, short-term rentals to accommodate tourists are located in the City’s most densely populated and affordable rental neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods are being gentrified, as older rental housing stock is demolished and replaced by upscale condo and townhouse units, part of the growing home-sharing market to accommodate higher-value, short-term tenants.
What’s evident from this limited data?
Council prioritizes the needs of tourists over the needs of long- term tenants. How? By pandering to property-owning interests. Council bends over backwards to accommodate home-sharing tourists first. How? By saying that the majority of local households, tenants, are the responsibility of the province, not the City. This, by dismissing the needs of 27,000 long-term local tenant households and 1,500 homeless individuals, as not our problem. The way, then, is paved for the City to displace them in favour of home owners, investors, and visitors who reap all the rewards of Victoria’s growth and economic prosperity.
1 Insideairbnb.com – Victoria, B.C., Canada, 29 July 2018, http://insideairbnb.com/get-the-data.html
2 Travis Lupik, The Georgia Strait, 1 August 2017, Average Airbnb prices (and earnings) for Vancouver are miles above most of Canada, https://www.straight.com/news/943456/average-airbnb-prices-and-earnings-vancouver-are-miles-above-most-canada