Airbnbs, short term rentals populate Victoria housing market

WatchAs tourism drops and border restrictions tighten, Airbnb owners are turning to renters to fill their suites. Jasmine Bala reports.

Airbnb and vacation rentals are popping up on sites like UsedVictoria, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With all the travel bans coming into place, most of our short term rentals have disappeared from the summer. Anyone that’s coming from anywhere else has cancelled or will likely cancel depending on what happens in the next couple of months,” said Keith MacKenzie, general manager of Victoria Prime Services, a rental management company that offers Airbnbs, vacation rentals and rental terms ranging to one year.

“So it’s made us sort of refocus our marketing on trying to get local residents or local guests into the suites.”

This means instead of offering rentals for days or weeks at a time, they’ll be offering the suites for months or a year at a time. It’s perfect for people coming to Victoria to work, people who are in between houses, and anyone that needs to be quarantined from their families, including hospital workers.

“We’ve reached out to [Island Health] on Friday and said that we have accommodations available for front line workers if required,” said MacKenzie. “Airbnb has also started a new campaign around the same thing … where we’re able to advertise at a drastically reduced rate for front line workers that have to be separated from their families.”

Airbnb is partnering with their hosts to house 100,000 healthcare providers while waiving all regular fees. Moves like these by Victoria Prime and Airbnb are meant to help front line workers keep their families and neighbours safe from the risk of spreading the coronavirus as they continue to put their health on the line on a daily basis.

Whether the increase in rentals available will have a positive effect on the housing market in the long term is still up in the air.

“There’s probably still less than a thousand of those licensed short term accommodations in the city and most of them, I believe, would prefer to be in the short term rental market and we’re just using this as sort of a stop-gap procedure for the next few months,” explained MacKenzie, adding that this is only the case for Airbnb style rentals.

Victoria Prime, he noted, always has properties that are in that month-to-year range rental term.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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