Short-term Rental Platforms and the Emergence of the "Entrepreneurial Landlord": Findings from Toronto

Authors: Sean Grisdale*, University of Toronto
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Tourism Geography
Keywords: Gentrification; Airbnb; Urban Political Economy; Financialization; Toronto
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Using data from the consulting firm Airdna, I analyse and map Airbnb listing activity in the City of Toronto between June 2016 to May 2017 to investigate the platform’s impacts on the local rental market and its implication in displacing local renters. Drawing on gentrification theory and an emerging geography literature concerning the political economy of Airbnb (Wachsmuth and Weisler, 2018), I note the platform’s capacity to unlock new rent gaps in the city by opening up the local rental market to a global level of demand. I find the majority of the platform’s revenue derives from full-time, commercially oriented hosts, mainly operating in downtown neighbourhoods. I suggest this portends the emergence of a novel class of financialized or entrepreneurial "shadow landlord," operating at the margins of existing rental regulations. Through their cutting-edge attention to the needs and desires of the jet-setting creative class, their business models fuse the latest trends in both “authentic” and business-oriented travel with the unbounded commodification of housing facilitated by Airbnb’s status as a monopolistic household name in short-term letting. These findings are contextualized by considering the wider emergence of platform-based companies amidst the financialization and condo-ization of major cities like Toronto.

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