The popularity of the short-term accommodation rental website Airbnb is skyrocketing in Vancouver – and recent research shows it may be negatively impacting an already tight rental market.

Airbnb is the ideal option for many travelers around the world, especially those who balk at paying pricey hotel costs. And it’s a growing trend: Simon Fraser urban studies graduate student Karen Sawatzky says there’s been a 63 per cent jump year-over-year on Airbnb rentals in Vancouver – and not just during the busy tourist season.

"The number of Airbnb listings seems to be growing continually, even in the off-season,” Sawatsky says, noting that in the last six months alone 1,000 more listings have been posted on the site, bringing the total to more than 4,700.

This means that many properties that could be rented out to locals for longer periods of time are no longer available, with some owners preferring to rent the accommodation out short-term.

"Any number of units that...could be rented out for long-term and are instead being rented out for short-term is going to have some kind of effect on the people on the ground who are looking for units,” she says. “And cost is related to supply.”

The vacancy rate for rental properties in Vancouver is currently below one percent, Sawatzky says, while a healthy vacancy rate should be around three per cent.

Landlord BC agrees, noting there are other huge issues with Airbnb. It’s not only illegal without a special permit, but it can possibly contravene the residential tenancy act – and there are safety concerns.

"Obviously we don't want to see a whole bunch of strangers on a regular basis,” says CEO David Hutniak. “We want to really manage that part of it."

The City of Vancouver is currently studying the impact of Airbnb to see if more stringent regulation may be needed in the future.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Julie Nolin