Data on Vancouver rental market misses shared living arrangements, say researchers who scraped Craigslist ads
VANCOUVER -- Researchers say that Vancouver renters are finding more affordable living situations by renting a room in a shared house or duplex rather than a condo.
The Housing Research Collaborative at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning scraped data from Craigslist housing ads over a period of five months in late 2019 and early 2020. Their data confirmed what many renters on the ground already know.
“The analysis found that rooms in homes with three or more bedrooms are more affordable and in greater supply than housing reports indicate. One-bedroom units, on the other hand, are scarcer,” reads the study.
Lead researcher Riley Iwamoto and his team scraped information from more than 17,000 housing ads posted on Craigslist between October 2019 and February 2020, and then isolated key data to map the price and locations of rental housing across the Metro Vancouver area.
“Craigslist ads include a significant part of the Vancouver rental market not captured in reports published by the CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and resources like Padmapper and Rentals.ca,” says Iwamoto.
“What it revealed was decidedly different than the results of the CMHC’s Rental Market Survey, showing that detached houses and townhomes play a far more significant role in meeting renters’ needs than official reports would suggest,” the study continues.
The researchers warn that their study only presents a partial view of the rental housing market, and their results should be combined with data from other online platforms and government sources for a more complete picture.
“Rentals.ca is regularly cited in the media as a source of information for the rental market, but Craigslist may capture a far greater market share of rental postings,” says Craig Jones, the research coordinator at the Housing Research Collaborative.
According to the team’s findings, the majority of people living in Metro Vancouver are spending more on rent than they can afford. Rent is typically considered affordable when it is under 30 per cent of a household or individual's annual pre-tax monthly income – which according the report is $1,529 per month in Vancouver, where the median income for a renting household is roughly $60,000.
The data shows that the most affordable areas in the region include southeast Vancouver and east of Surrey and Pitt Meadows.
To cut costs, even in high-rent areas, renters could opt for rooms in shared houses rather than condos, say the researchers. Renting a room in a three-bedroom unit, for example, costs about half as much as renting a one-bedroom unit.
“More affordable options seem to be found in older, lower-density structures like detached houses, duplexes, basement suites,” says Iwamoto. “These are realities regularly encountered by renters themselves, but not found in most data sources on the rental market — mainly due to the nature of those sources and how they are analyzed.”