A new analysis of booking and revenue data for Airbnb has found the short-term rental platform isn’t likely causing rents to increase much at this point, but the company’s rapid growth and incentive for a larger commercial share could change that in the future, FiveThirtyEight reported Wednesday.
Honolulu has 1,400 active listings on Airbnb, roughly the same as Las Vegas and Boston.
But the percent of those rentals that are considered commercial — as in, apartments that are rented out most of the year to visitors as opposed to someone just offering their couch a few days each year — is twice as high in Honolulu.
In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s analysis determined that Honolulu had the highest commercial share at 21.1 percent. The average across all markets was 9.7 percent.
The experts interviewed in the story say that’s important because it’s the commercial rentals that one, account for the most revenue, and two, actually result in a rental being taken off the market, which in turn could drive up rental prices.
Airbnb hosts had $1.1 billion in revenue across all markets in the past year, the story says, with the commercial share accounting for 32.7 percent of that.
Honolulu’s commercial share accounted for 45 percent of its overall revenue, making the city second only to Los Angeles, according to the FiveThirtyEight analysis.
Airbnb disputes the analysis.
“This analysis doesn’t provide a complete and accurate picture of our community,” Airbnb spokesman Alison Schumer said in a statement. “According to this analysis, 90 percent of the Airbnb listings in these 25 cities were booked for less than 180 days. Additionally, this analysis shows that Airbnb listings are a small fraction of the housing market — Airbnb listings shared for more than half the year make up .07% of the housing stock in these cities.”
Honolulu is facing a housing shortage (a 2014 study found a need for 14,310 units to be built by 2020) and soaring costs to buy a home (median prices have topped $700,000). That’s coupled with near-record numbers of tourists coming to the islands at a time when hotels rooms are rarely empty.
Meanwhile, Airbnb has been talking to landlords around the country about a deal that would involve them renting their units out on a short-term basis instead of long-term in exchange for a cut of the profit.
Airbnb is by far the biggest platform offering such rentals, but not the only. HomeAway, VRBO and FlipKey provide similar services.
Here’s what Schatz and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Elizabeth Warren had to say in their July 13 letter to the FTC:
“We are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities. We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law,” the senators said.
“In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms. We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms.”