Short Term Rentals and Housing Affordability

Before COVID-19 gripped the world, people aspired to live and work in cities that offered them the finest options in culture, dining, entertainment and recreation. These attractions also brought in tourists, who frequently chose to stay in short term rentals (STRs) in nearby residential neighborhoods, such as those on Airbnb and HomeAway. Some property owners found that these short term rentals were more lucrative than renting to local residents on a long-term basis. Some even purchased or leased additional homes solely for the purpose of generating income through short term rentals.housing affordability in a city2

According to many studies, short term rentals drive housing demand and rental costs upward. In one study, the Harvard Business Review linked one-fifth (20%) of the average annual increase in rents and about one-seventh (13%) of the average annual increase in housing prices in the U.S. to Airbnb-style short term rental listings.

However, other studies show a minimal impact on housing costs and demand. A survey of rental costs in Berlin (conducted by Airbnb), showed no significant increase, although that is arguably the result of very strict STR regulations in that city.

City planners who are trying to predict whether or not an increase in STRs will negatively affect housing affordability in their region should look at three variables:

  • Is your municipality a tourist destination (or close to one)? More tourism equals more income for STR operators, and that will give them motivation to remove housing stock from the residential market.
  • What percentage of housing appears to be for STR use versus long-term or owner-occupied? The higher the STR density percentage, the less housing is available for long-term renters or home buyers.
  • Does the municipality have regulations restricting STR ownership? If a single owner, who may not even live nearby, can operate multiple STRs, the loss of available housing mentioned above is compounded.

Harmari has analyzed housing data across the country to illustrate some of the warning signs of housing stress. City planners need this information to predict trends and advocate for ordinances that protect housing affordability for their residents.

In the data tables below, Harmari has modeled a nationwide inventory of short term rental listings collected in November 2020 and compared that to the data obtained from the U.S. National Census records for 2019 for total housing units. Percentage vacancy rates are broken down by state and even by county. The results are truly interesting.

Top 10 States with Highest STR Inventories

State AbbreviationState NameSTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of HousingHousing Pct. Rental Vacancy RateDifference between STR Pct. and Vacancy Pct.
NYNew York1042211.24%5.2%4.0%
NCNorth Carolina745071.57%6.7%5.1%
SCSouth Carolina609602.59%10.8%8.2%

By absolute numbers and as a percentage of total housing, it is not surprising that Florida and California lead the way based on population. But the outliers in this list are Hawaii, South Carolina and Colorado. This is likely due to a high number of secondary homes, given the seasonal destinations of those respective states.

But let’s look at this data a different way, sorting by highest STR density compared to total housing:

Top 10 States with Highest STR Density

State AbbreviationState NameSTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of HousingHousing Pct. Rental Vacancy RateDifference between STR Pct. and Vacancy Pct.
DCDistrict of Columbia134854.18%6.0%1.8%
SCSouth Carolina609602.59%10.8%8.2%

The 4 states in bold are on both Top 10 lists (by absolute STR count and by STRs as a percentage of total housing). Additional outliers also appear on this chart which were not on the last one, based on relative proportion of total housing. This is even more concerning to those in Vermont, D.C., Montana and Maine, which head this list, because they already have a low housing supply. These remote regions have also seen an influx of people escaping from high-density regions prone to the spread of COVID-19.

When you compare these numbers to the same Census values for Rental Vacancy Rates, the alarms start to sound for these remote states. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that once the STR density percentage equals or exceeds the rental vacancy percentage, tenants are losing housing to tourists. The big states are on this list, but the smallest of the states are on there, too.

Short Term Rental Inventory as a Percentage of Housing Relative to Rental Vacancy Rate

State AbbreviationState NameSTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of HousingHousing Pct. Rental Vacancy RateDifference between STR Pct. and Vacancy Pct.
DCDistrict of Columbia134854.18%6.0%1.8%
NHNew Hampshire132542.06%4.0%1.9%
RIRhode Island72351.54%3.9%2.4%
NJNew Jersey357340.98%4.2%3.2%
NYNew York1042211.24%5.2%4.0%
NCNorth Carolina745071.57%6.7%5.1%
WVWest Virginia54390.61%5.8%5.2%
NMNew Mexico179601.89%7.1%5.2%
SCSouth Carolina609602.59%10.8%8.2%
SDSouth Dakota47001.17%9.5%8.3%
NDNorth Dakota13230.35%11.6%11.3%

Below is a breakdown county-by-county for California, Colorado, and Florida. The numbers point to a strong connection between high tourism and reduced housing availability, and in some cases the percentage density of STRs to total housing units spikes up to 50%!

California Short Term Rentals and Housing Affordability

California has a strong four-season tourism economy within its own state, with over 840 miles of Pacific coastline and skiing destinations in the Sierra Nevada mountains within a 2 hour drive for most residents.  Below is a table broken down County-by-County within California of short term rentals as a percentage of total housing:

California Short Term Rental Inventory by County and as Percentage of Housing

CountySTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of Housing
Mono County542538.2%
Alpine County34519.4%
Mariposa County131612.6%
Nevada County33536.1%
El Dorado County55676.1%
Calaveras County12494.4%
Placer County74364.4%
Tuolumne County13344.2%
San Luis Obispo County50904.1%
Mendocino County14203.5%
Del Norte County3372.9%
Riverside County245832.9%
Plumas County4562.9%
Napa County14782.7%
Sonoma County54302.6%
Madera County12562.4%
Santa Cruz County25452.4%
Sierra County532.2%
San Francisco County90062.2%
Siskiyou County5352.2%
San Diego County272062.2%
Marin County24582.2%
Humboldt County13572.1%
Santa Barbara County32992.1%
Monterey County27501.9%
Inyo County1811.9%
Trinity County1651.8%
Lake County6061.8%
San Mateo County48551.7%
San Bernardino County116511.6%
Santa Clara County90771.3%
Orange County146481.3%
Los Angeles County465411.3%
Shasta County9631.2%
Alameda County67791.1%
Amador County1700.9%
Ventura County22100.8%
Tulare County9740.6%
Butte County5320.6%
Contra Costa County21670.5%
Yolo County4030.5%
Solano County7540.5%
Fresno County15750.5%
San Benito County910.5%
Modoc County230.4%
Lassen County550.4%
Sacramento County23390.4%
Kern County12140.4%
Tehama County840.3%
San Joaquin County5850.2%
Stanislaus County3770.2%
Yuba County570.2%
Merced County1610.2%
Imperial County1060.2%
Colusa County140.2%
Sutter County440.1%
Kings County590.1%
Glenn County80.1%

Mono County surrounds the Town of Mammoth Lakes, a very popular ski destination within a 2-hour drive of the Los Angeles metro area. Alpine County has three large ski resorts within an hour’s drive of Sacramento, and Mariposa County is on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park.  These regions have less commercialized accommodations for tourists, and short term rentals have filled that demand.

Colorado Short Term Rentals and Housing Affordability

Colorado has historically been a winter tourist destination, but many cities have witnessed a recent economic and industrial revival, recovering from the corporate oil exodus of the 1980s.  Below is a table, broken down County-by-County within Colorado, of short term rentals as a percentage of total housing:

Colorado Short Term Rental Inventory by County and as Percentage of Housing

CountySTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of Housing
Summit County1799656.1%
San Miguel County298442.7%
Routt County656838.4%
San Juan County23229.3%
Pitkin County406028.5%
Grand County480128.0%
Eagle County827825.0%
Ouray County63418.7%
Gunnison County207417.0%
Archuleta County156416.1%
Hinsdale County16111.2%
Lake County46710.4%
Mineral County13210.1%
Chaffee County8427.3%
Clear Creek County3936.7%
La Plata County18726.5%
Rio Grande County4055.9%
Park County8665.8%
Teller County7525.6%
Saguache County1573.6%
Gilpin County1223.2%
Jackson County403.0%
Custer County1322.9%
Garfield County7112.9%
Larimer County35862.3%
Montezuma County2642.1%
Boulder County24321.7%
Delta County2571.7%
Rio Blanco County561.6%
Huerfano County831.6%
Denver County51321.5%
Dolores County251.4%
El Paso County37721.3%
Mesa County8941.3%
Las Animas County1131.3%
Alamosa County851.2%
Costilla County301.0%
Montrose County1881.0%
Fremont County1911.0%
Jefferson County16920.7%
Lincoln County160.6%
Conejos County280.6%
Kit Carson County210.6%
Adams County9470.5%
Arapahoe County13220.5%
Moffat County240.4%
Pueblo County2570.4%
Douglas County4700.4%
Otero County260.3%
Prowers County170.3%
Logan County240.3%
Weld County2960.3%
Crowley County30.2%
Baca County40.2%
Washington County40.2%
Elbert County160.2%
Bent County30.1%
Morgan County120.1%
Yuma County40.1%
Broomfield County90.0%

Topping the list is Summit County, which contains Keystone, Breckenridge and other prime skiing and mountain destinations. San Miguel County contains Mountain Village and Telluride, also great choices on the Western Slope. Routt County contains Steamboat Springs, a phenomenal skiing destination. Note that these counties have less commercialized property such as hotels and resorts compared to the more well-known regions of Aspen (Pitkin County) and Vail (Eagle County). Therefore, they do have a higher proportion of alternative short term rental accommodations to meet the demands of the tourism market.

Florida Short Term Rentals and Housing Affordability

The classic Suncoast state of Florida has always been a tourist destination, but it is also home to a huge economy driven by agriculture, shipping, and aerospace. Below is a table broken down County-by-County within Florida of short term rentals as a percentage of total housing:

Florida Short Term Rental Inventory by County and as Percentage of Housing

CountySTR Listing CountSTR Pct. of Housing
Walton County1561628.5%
Osceola County3381120.8%
Monroe County982518.2%
Okaloosa County1578416.0%
Bay County1617415.4%
Franklin County134615.2%
Gulf County122512.6%
Saint Johns County56944.9%
Lee County196844.8%
Polk County133494.4%
Manatee County86214.3%
Nassau County17574.3%
Collier County93504.2%
Escambia County58344.1%
Sarasota County98093.9%
Charlotte County34883.3%
Pinellas County164133.2%
Volusia County74942.8%
Flagler County14262.6%
Broward County193762.3%
Santa Rosa County16072.2%
Taylor County2392.1%
Lake County34202.1%
Miami-Dade County184761.8%
Dixie County1551.6%
Orange County88411.6%
Brevard County44431.6%
Citrus County12461.5%
Sumter County9431.3%
Levy County2631.3%
Martin County9301.2%
Saint Lucie County15381.1%
Indian River County8441.0%
Jefferson County640.9%
Wakulla County1130.8%
Lafayette County270.8%
Leon County10370.8%
Alachua County9280.8%
Hillsborough County42020.7%
Duval County26710.6%
Hernando County5570.6%
Columbia County1760.6%
Gilchrist County460.6%
Palm Beach County40580.6%
Highlands County2920.5%
Suwannee County970.5%
Putnam County1860.5%
Marion County8460.5%
Seminole County8930.5%
Pasco County9530.4%
Okeechobee County660.4%
Glades County250.4%
Hamilton County150.3%
Clay County1790.2%
Jackson County380.2%
Madison County140.2%
Hendry County240.2%
Liberty County50.1%
DeSoto County210.1%
Calhoun County80.1%
Gadsden County290.1%
Washington County130.1%
Bradford County120.1%
Union County50.1%
Hardee County70.1%
Baker County20.0%
Holmes County10.0%

Topping this list is Walton County, which has Miramar Beach, Grayton Beach, and Rosemary Beach. Osceola County includes Kissimmee, Four Corners, and St. Cloud, and it is close to attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and the Orlando metro area. Monroe County is the 108 mile long stretch of the Florida Keys including cities Marathon and Key West. Okaloosa County contains Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Santa Rosa Island. Except for Osceola County, many of these counties have fewer commercialized accommodations like hotels and resorts. This drives up demand for short term rental accommodations.

City planners need to take inventory of the risk factors in their municipalities that could lead to STRs negatively affecting housing affordability. With carefully planned and enforced ordinances, any region can enjoy the income from tourism without sacrificing quality of life for its residents.

Contact Us to learn more about Harmari STR helps protect housing stock for your community.

Error sources:

  • Variability in STR inventory, and urban / remote housing supply/demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of +/- 25%, discussed here
  • Listing exceed dwelling unit inventories by 10-30% due to duplicates between and within platform


  • total housing units by state and county
  • rental vacancy rates by state
  • Wikipedia population rankings
Short Term Rentals and Housing Affordability
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