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Airbnb fights back, says it isn’t hurting L.A. housing

Hope Arnold finishes making the bed in her Silver Lake home. Arnold rents out her bedroom and sometimes her home through Airbnb.

Hope Arnold finishes making the bed in her Silver Lake home. Arnold rents out her bedroom and sometimes her home through Airbnb.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

In the latest salvo in Los Angeles’ ongoing war over Airbnb, the online rental powerhouse released a new study Tuesday arguing that its rentals have not worsened the housing crunch in the city.

The study, done by Airbnb data analysts in consultation with an assistant professor in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, seeks to challenge critics who say it is bleeding L.A. of needed housing. It follows a blistering report by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which concluded that rentals listed on Airbnb and other online platforms had removed nearly 11,000 units from the L.A. market.

Airbnb has insisted that such claims are inaccurate because they wrongly assume that any whole house or apartment listed on the website is effectively off the housing market for long-term tenants. Its report counters that 80% of its listings for an entire home or unit were rented out for fewer than 90 nights annually.

The Airbnb report also finds that the vacancy rate in Los Angeles has changed little as Airbnb exploded in popularity, “further underscoring that the Airbnb community has no material impact on housing availability in the city of Los Angeles.”

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In addition, “Airbnb hosts are overwhelmingly not making more money than renting to a long-term tenant,” UCLA assistant professor Paavo Monkkonen wrote in an introduction, citing a comparison of market rates in Los Angeles neighborhoods to average nightly earnings.

Monkkonen, who said he reviewed the study but did not do the analysis himself, said that Airbnb and similar rentals are much less of a threat to the housing supply than “NIMBYs” who have prevented Los Angeles and nearby cities from building more housing.

In reaction to the new report, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy -- an advocacy group allied with labor unions--questioned some of the figures and assumptions in the Airbnb analysis.

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The alliance’s research and policy analyst, Roy Samaan, challenged the idea that numbers back up the argument that people are largely renting out their homes when they leave town. He argued that even if someone was putting his or her entire home -- rather than just a room or two -- on the market for only 90 nights in a year, that is far more than the typical number of days off that workers get annually.

“There’s no way you can live there full time and rent it out at the rates we’re seeing,” Samaan said. “We stand by our conclusions.”

Airbnb is releasing the study as Los Angeles launches a series of public hearings on how the city should regulate short-term rentals, including those brokered through Airbnb, VRBO and other online platforms. The first of the hearings is being held Tuesday night in Mar Vista.

Follow @latimesemily for what’s happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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