09/12/2016 07:41 EDT | Updated 09/13/2016 01:42 EDT

Airbnb Steps Up PR As Vancouver Faces Rental Crisis

Interesting timing.

Airbnb is stepping up its public relations efforts as cities like Vancouver continue to grapple with a shortage of rental units.

Last week, the online rental service released a video that showed numerous Vancouverites touting Airbnb as a way for them to afford day-to-day life in a notoriously expensive city.

A screengrab from Airbnb's PR video about Vancouver. (Photo: Airbnb/Facebook)

One host, Heather, talked about how Airbnb helped her raise extra money for her children, who are currently studying in university.

The service has also helped her as she goes to school herself, she said.

Airbnb notes that 60 per cent of hosts use revenue from their properties to pay their mortgages or rents.

"People across Vancouver depend on Airbnb to help make extra money," it adds.

"When Airbnb guests stay in Vancouver's neighbourhoods they spend more at local businesses."

Apartment buildings in Vancouver. (Photo: Mitch Diamond/Getty Images)

But it comes at a time when residents are having increasing trouble finding a place to live.

The city's rental vacancy rate currently sits at 0.5 per cent, "and that was only rivalled in the 1970s," housing advocate and UBC researcher Iain Marjoribanks told CTV News.

A healthy vacancy rate generally ranges from three to five per cent, The Globe and Mail reported in July.

Condominium towers in Vancouver. (Photo: Rob Atkins/Getty Images)

Other advocates have said affordable rents are scarce because landlords are hoping to pull in more cash, while old buildings are being demolished to make way for condominiums.

The latest stats around rents suggest the cost is only growing around Vancouver.

The cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in October 2015 was $1,079 per month, up from $1,038 the year prior, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In the city proper, it cost $1,175, compared to $1,124 in 2014.

The issue is even more pronounced when you look at the cost to rent a two-bedroom unit. It cost $1,643 to rent in the City of Vancouver, up from $1,571 in the previous year.

Rents were most expensive in the West End/Stanley Park area, where they went for $1,951 per month.

The rental crisis has been blamed, in part, on the proliferation of Airbnb's short-term rentals, which have more than tripled since 2013 to hit about 6,400 last year, The Globe and Mail reported.

Vancouver City Hall. (Photo: Mark Jurkovic/Getty Images)

The City of Vancouver is readying a report on Airbnb that will look at how short-term rentals are affecting the rental market, and how it should regulate the service, The Vancouver Sun reported.

It's expected to come to council in the fall.

But Vancouver's not the only city where Airbnb has ratcheted up the PR.

The rental service has also stepped up its marketing in Toronto, putting out a news release last week showing that the city has 8,600 active hosts in the city.

It also touted its contributions to Ontario's economy, such as that a host can earn $3,900 from their listing every year.

Toronto's CN Tower with apartment buildings in the foreground. (Photo: Krzysztof Dydynski/Getty Images)

But Toronto, too, is grappling with the effects of short-term rentals. Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam led an effort to have staff report on how Airbnb can be regulated, The Toronto Star reported.

She cited issues such as noise, using homes as "event spaces" and that Airbnb rentals were being used for crime, such as human trafficking.

A report on Airbnb is expected next month.

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