Coronavirus Tourism Slump in Dublin Exposes Airbnb’s Impact on Rentals


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.”

And while some workers have moved out of urban areas while working-from-home practices are in place and some from overseas returned to their native countries during the pandemic, experts attribute much of Dublin’s abrupt rise in listings for long-term rentals to the drop in Airbnb listings.

The evidence, they say, is that availability has spiked in parts of the city where short-term listings were concentrated — something that has not happened evenly across the city or in the rest of the country.

The shift has been most pronounced in central Dublin, where owners of investment properties have been abandoning the short-term market. Jim Cryan, a retired businessman, moved his Dublin Airbnb listing onto the long-term rental market in late March. Within two and a half weeks, the four-bedroom townhouse was rented.

Mr. Cryan accepted a lease with a monthly fee of about $3,900, half of what he could have expected when the Airbnb market was sizzling. Yet he doubts that he will return to the short-term market.

“You apply common sense to it,” he said. “It’s like if you invest in a share and it collapses, you’re very loath to go back in again and get burned twice.”

This is not to say that the return of former Airbnb listings to the rental market will solve Dublin’s housing crunch.

“The underlying shortage of rental accommodation is probably at least 50,000 and closer to 70,000 or 80,000 based on trends over the last couple of decades,” said Mr. Lyons, the economics professor.

“My concern,” he added, “would be that a politician could look at this and go, ‘Oh, problem solved: Airbnb has collapsed, the European market has collapsed, we’ve got all these rental properties over and job done.’”

For one thing, while rents in Dublin have fallen since the coronavirus struck, the drop-off over all was marginal, and recent months have even seen a slight uptick.

“The underlying shortage of rental accommodation in Dublin is very acute,” Mr. Lyons wrote in the report for Daft.ie. And many landlords are wary of locking in losses for the long term.

“If you lower your rent now, the rent you set in one, three and 10 years will reflect the cut you make today,” Mr. Lyons wrote. “So, however open landlords might be to haggling ‘at the door’ and offering a month or two free rent at the start to sweeten the deal, they may be very reluctant to flag in an ad that they are indeed cutting their rent.”



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