Airbnb has faced controversy since its creation for allegedly driving up rent prices in cities where it operates. But does it really?
The case critics make is simple. Some landlords think they can make more money renting a given set of units to Airbnb customers than they can make renting that same set to long-term residents who live in the area. This reduces the supply of available apartments, driving up housing prices for locals.
If you ask Airbnb, their supporters will say most rentals on its platform would normally be vacant or unoccupied. They might point to a spare bedroom in someone’s house and say that renting a space like that, one that’s not part of the normal housing supply, doesn’t reduce the number of available rentals.
Is any of it true, though? What about in Atlanta?
The statistics-happy website FiveThirtyEight analyzed Airbnb rental data provided by consulting firm Airdna and found right now, Airbnb isn’t having a huge effect on most cities’ housing supplies.
According to their data, Atlanta has 1,300 Airbnb listings during the year. Of those, 8.9 percent are “commercial” units rented for more than 180 days per year. New York uses this definition, which is considered conservative. The average across cities surveyed is 9.7 percent.
Atlanta, never the first destination for tourists, offers a far lower percentage of rental units than Honolulu. The Hawaiian capital has a stunning 21 percent of Airbnb units used commercially. Other cities with more tourism like Los Angeles and Las Vegas had higher percentages than Atlanta as well.
FiveThirtyEight also noted the absolute number of Airbnb rentals in most cities is too low to have a significant effect on rent prices.
The data becomes more worrying when it’s broken down by revenue. Airbnb hosts make a third (31.3 percent) of their $12 million revenue from the 8.9 percent of listings that are commercial properties. This ties the profits of Airbnb to commercial operators who rent year round and could take housing units off the market.