After the housing bust, the number of foreclosures rose dramatically. From 2006 to 2010, foreclosure inventory rose by nearly 2 million, then it dropped, decreasing the number of vacant homes.

However, the number of off-market vacant homes did not follow suit. While there could be a number of reasons for this, could Airbnb, a company that allows for homes to be used as short-term rentals, be one of them?

HousingWire first looked at Airbnb as the cause for rent increases in our September edition magazine. This issue is so important, in fact, that we took an unprecedented step by taking the story out from behind the paywall.

That story is still available for one more week, and you can read it here.

It seems the rest of the market is starting to catch on: Capital Economics just sent out a report that raises the case of vacant homes versus Airbnb.

“The apartment sharing website has exploded in popularity in recent years, and has attracted criticism for depriving communities of homes for long-term rent or sale, worsening housing shortages,” Capital Economics Property Economist Matthew Pointon wrote in the report.

“Indeed, according to the Airdna website, in 2015 there were over 500,000 apartments advertised in the U.S.,” he continued.

However, the report points out that about a third of Airbnb listings are only a single room, not the whole house. Also, for an Airbnb property to be classed as vacant, its owners must have a permanent residence elsewhere, as must those staying there. That excludes homes rented out, for example, only when the owner is on vacation.

The Capital Economics report states that it’s hard to get solid data on which homes are available year-round. While this is true, we can’t get enough information to make informed assumptions.

Take one city, New York City, for example. It currently has 39,717 Airbnb listings, according to Inside Airbnb, a website that delivers information from Airbnb in an interactive form. Of those, 21,209 are listings that rent out the entire home or apartment, not just one room.

Now to take that a step further, 69.4%, or 14,721, have a high availability, which means they are available for rent at least two months out of the year. This means they are more than likely not homes rented out only when the owner is on vacation. The average number of available days for these properties is 262 days a year.

We can assume that most of these, if not all, are homes that are vacant, and only used for Airbnb purposes, but we can even take it one step further. Of the listings that list the entire house, and have a high availability, 39% belong to hosts that have multiple listings.

“It is interesting to note that since 2010 – the period from which Airbnb saw strong growth – to the second quarter of this year, the number of homes which are classified as occupied by persons who usually live elsewhere has indeed increased by 150,000,” Pointon wrote in the report.

However, total vacancies rose 1.5 million since 2006 primarily due to “other reasons.”

Is there another reason affecting vacancies that we have yet to uncover? Or, adversely, could homeowners be hesitant to answer truthfully due to the illegality of using Airbnb as a business in some markets?

Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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