ICYMI – Week of August 11

  • Last week the Toronto Star published an article profiling a study from the School of Urban Planning at McGill University¬†on Airbnb’s inventory of commercial operators running “ghost hotels” as opposed to regular people renting out empty rooms in their houses. This issue has been raised by other outlets in the past (such as this one by fivethirtyeight). This week, Fast Company profiled another study from researchers at MIT, UCLA and UNC which found that Airbnb has a not-insignificant-but-not-huge effect on area rents. However, the study also finds that the share of commercial operators in a zip-code affects the increases in rent, or “the effect of Airbnb is smaller in zipcodes with a larger share of owner-occupiers”.
  • Earlier this year researchers at Ryerson University found that much of Toronto’s low density neighborhoods are losing population and are, effectively, “over-housed”. The reason for this, the research finds, is that these neighborhoods are largely inhabited by empty-nesters or seniors. For younger people priced out of the housing market who are hoping to live in a low-rise home in the future, this may be a sign of hope. As residents of these units age and decide to downsize to a smaller unit, these homes would become available and add to the housing market. However, what most people often fail to note is that the retired, empty-nesters and seniors comprise a very large age-group. New research from the Altus Group shows people don’t generally downsize to an apartment or assisted-care home until well into their later years (80s, according to this report). With the current median age of the Baby-Boomers in the late 50s, there’s easily another 20 or so years before the tipping point. In the meantime, it’s could mean increasing supply or trying other, unconventional methods.
  • Here’s an interesting post on the “aspirational appeal” of the suburbs for African-Americans and how the demographics (and politics) of suburbs are changing. UrbanEdge did a Q&A with Pete Saunders (who wrote the blog post) to dig a little deeper into it.
  • I noted happily how dockless bikeshares are catching on, but are investors who are pumping money into these services doing so because they’re cycling evangelists? Maybe, but it’s more likely because bikeshare services are another way to mine data about customers.
  • In this week’s edition of Didn’t-We-See-This-Coming, some of Apple’s employees aren’t so peachy about the open plan concept of their new digs.