Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

Tourism Slump in Dublin Lays Bare Airbnb’s Damage to Rental Markets

After the pandemic hit, the number of longer-term listings jumped in the Irish capital. That brought some relief to a crunched market for renters, though it may not last.

By Anna Joyce

The modern one-bedroom Dublin apartment featured an open-plan living space, a sun-soaked balcony, solar panels, ample storage space and parking for two cars. The location was ideal, as was the price: about $1,800 a month — $300 less than the previous tenant had paid.

In a city where lines to view rental properties have regularly trailed around the block, the new tenants could hardly believe their luck.

“We were not going to get this place,” Aoife Brannigan, 25, said of the months of fruitless searching that she and her partner, Shaun Gribben, 25, had undertaken before landing the apartment. “I couldn’t see it happening had this not happened. We 100 percent benefited from this.”

The “this” she was referring to was the coronavirus, which has sent a chill through Ireland’s once-frenzied housing market, particularly Airbnb listings, which have been hit by a collapse in tourism. That drop, along with an exodus of people from overseas leaving Dublin because of the pandemic, has created a surge in available rental properties in the Irish capital — a shift that underscores how Airbnb’s presence continues to influence housing prices in popular cities.

For Dublin, the change has relieved a crunch that in recent years sent rents skyrocketing and left many people struggling to afford a place to live. The situation was so fraught that in February, voters in search of affordable housing and greater tenant rights set off shock waves in national elections by ousting the traditional governing parties.

When Ms. Brannigan and Mr. Gribben began their search in earnest at the start of the year, he said, “I remember every day I was given around 60 properties — and once this kicked in, it literally doubled.”

For years, homes rented out on Airbnb for short-term stays drained the supply of the Dublin area’s rental market, rising from about 1,700 full-home listings in 2016 to over 4,500 early this year just before the coronavirus crisis, according to Inside Airbnb, a site that tracks listings in cities around the globe.

But during the pandemic that trend has reversed, with such listings declining to about 3,900 during August, a deceptively small shift that has had an outsize effect. From May to July, long-term rental listings in the city were nearly 50 percent above the same period last year — an increase of over 1,000 rental homes — despite a 1.5 percent fall in the rest of the country, according to a report by Ronan Lyons, an assistant professor of economics at Trinity College Dublin, for the Irish real estate website

Because they operate on short-term leases, Airbnb listings can flood the rental market in a way that longer-term rentals cannot.

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