Dec. 11, 2023

Survey asks Calgarians what they think about Airbnb in their community

Feedback will shape new short-term rental regulation recommendations; survey closes Dec. 31
A set of high rise apartment buildings in downtown Calgary
UCalgary researcher Lindsay Tedds is conducting a survey about short-term rentals in Calgary. iStock.

Trying to find a place for your visiting relatives to stay for the holidays? Looking for a new house to live in because your landlord decided to convert your long-term rental into an Airbnb? Sick of the endless party in the vacation property down the block? Heading out of town and looking to make a bit of money by renting out your home for a week or two?

If you’re any of the above, Dr. Lindsay Tedds, PhD, wants to hear from you in a new survey. She is leading a project aimed at developing recommendations for an evidence-based flexible short-term rental regulatory framework for the City of Calgary.

Tedds, associate professor in the Department of Economics in the Faculty of Arts, has been studying the short-term rental market for the last few years, examining the regulatory frameworks of 25 jurisdictions across Canada. She and her team wanted to understand why regulations are “so ineffective” at managing the short-term rental market.

The key factor they identified was the presence of platforms, like Airbnb and Vrbo. “Instead of a two-party market of consumers and producers, we have consumers, platforms and producers,” says Tedds. The platforms have significant influence on a city’s market, in how they recruit more hosts, market listings, and promote certain locations.

“Regulations that don't take this into account leads to what are called regulatory fractures, which means our usual approach of regulating markets breaks down, because it's not meant to apply to a three-party market.”

That’s the situation in which major cities all over Canada, including Calgary, have found themselves: facing the challenge of a booming short-term rental market with regulatory and enforcement tools that are poorly designed to manage the novel market.

In response, City of Calgary Councillors Jasmine Mian and Evan Spencer approached Tedds about conducting a study to make recommendations for a new regulatory framework for Calgary, as part of the Urban Alliance strategic partnership.

The “for Calgary” aspect is particularly important to Tedds. “When you don't consider the very specific jurisdictional considerations, you can miss important aspects to the market because you fundamentally don't understand how the jurisdiction works,” she says.

Tedds’s research has shown that the majority of Calgary’s short-term listings are episodic and temporary. She names people leaving town for Stampede, and energy sector workers who rent out their homes when they’re working out of town as two significant factors in the market.

Lindsay Tedds smiles at the camera while wearing glasses, a pink shirt and a grey cardigan.

Lindsay Tedds.

Lynne Siemens.

Other short-term rental users in Calgary are rural Albertans traveling to the city for medical treatments that necessitate staying in town for a few days or weeks at a time. Post-secondary students can also wind up in short-term housing when medium- or long-term options aren’t feasible for them.

“You have to consider all of that and ensure that we have a vibrant city for everybody, because we don't want to lock those people out of living in Calgary. They’re an important part of our community as well,” she says.

Citizen input 'critical'

Citizen input is critical to understanding Calgary’s market in depth. The survey launched by Tedds and The City of Calgary includes questions specific to a person’s relationship with the market — short-term rental owners, users, and interested citizens are all encouraged to participate.

The survey is open until Dec 31, 2023. It is paired with interviews and focused groups with key community stakeholders — including community associations, hotel associations, long-term landlords, neighbours, and short-term rental operators — as a means of gaining a broad understanding of concerns, experiences, costs, and opportunities of short-term rentals in Calgary.

Tedds and her team will analyze the responses from these vital stakeholder engagements, and then contextualize them with information from a detailed quantitative analysis of Calgary’s short-term rental market, its existing regulations, and an in-depth understanding of regulatory approaches across Canada to develop proposals for a new regulatory framework.

Health and safety are of great importance to Tedds, citing a tragedy in Montreal last March where seven people staying in short-term rental units were killed in a fire. “We need to make sure that we have fire alarms, egresses, and floor plans for anywhere that people are staying,” she says.

“In Montreal, the fire department responding didn’t know that there were short-term rentals in that building, so they didn’t know how many people they were looking for. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Flexibility important in Calgary

Flexibility will also be important in Calgary, where short-term rental stock fluctuates greatly throughout the year. “Regina and Saskatchewan have rules such that if the long-term rental vacancy rate drops below three per cent, no more licences for short-term rentals are issued,” she says.

“When there's a lot of vacancies, jurisdictions can shift into short-term rental operations and when there's low vacancy, they can shift back to long-term operations.”

Tedds’s goal is to propose a framework that considers all of Calgary’s unique factors together in a way that allows The City to always be considering how is the market growing and changing, and respond nimbly in turn.

“Hotels can't provide all the short-term accommodations we need, and you can't build hotels just for Stampede,” she says. “Having a flexible housing stock is important, but having too much of a flexible housing stock has problems associated with it. It's all about managing a market in a way to achieve all of the benefits and minimizing the costs to Calgarians.”

Urban Alliance is a strategic partnership between The City of Calgary and University of Calgary to promote the seamless transfer of cutting-edge research between The City and the university, for the benefit of all our communities. Urban Alliance energizes connections between the people who make up our organizations, and encourages us to work together to find ways to make life better for all Calgarians. Learn more

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.