As the City of Vancouver prepares a report on the impact of Airbnb on housing, the company is touting itself as way for cash-strapped residents to pay their bills.

A new ad campaign puts the spotlight on some of Airbnb’s local hosts, including Michelle, a pensioner who credits short-term rentals for helping her remain in her East Village home.

“It’s not a cheap city to live,” she says in the commercial. “Airbnb actually allows me to stay in this little place in Vancouver, which is more and more difficult every year.”

According to the ads, 60 per cent of local hosts use the money they make using Airbnb to help pay their rent or mortgage.

But the city is also struggling with a shortage of rental homes; the vacancy rate has been below one per cent for several years, and is currently the lowest in Canada.

University students who went searching for places to live before heading back to school this week told CTV News they viewed as many as 35 potential rentals before securing one.

Last week, a walk-in closet in downtown Vancouver was advertised to international students for $580 a month.

Vancouver is researching Airbnb and other short-term rental websites, including Homeway Family and Flipkey, to determine what effect they’re having on the city’s housing stock.

“Cities around the world are struggling with this,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said Thursday.

“It’s a benefit to people who own places and can rent the rooms… but it has soaked up a whole bunch of really important supply of rental housing.”

According to information staff have already gathered, there are 5,300 short-term rentals in Vancouver, three-quarters of which are entire houses or apartments, as opposed to a shared space within a home.

The majority of Airbnb listings are rented for fewer than 90 days last year, but roughly a quarter of full units were rented out for more than that.

The city said it will look at ways to regulate Airbnb. Though Vancouver already has a bylaw against renting for fewer than 30 days, apart from licenced hotels and bed and breakfasts, but it’s currently only enforced in response to complaints.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst