Rising demand for short-term rentals is filling former apartments in neighborhoods such as Boston’s Chinatown, where investors have acquired multifamily properties to cater to visiting businesspeople and tourists.

Properties offered for short-term rentals in Boston declined 16 percent in the past year, with Dorchester, downtown and Jamaica Plain accounting for over a third of the overall inventory.

Property owners currency register 677 short-term rentals in the city’s database, maintained by the inspectional services department. The properties span 482 parcels, with most of the units located in one- to three-unit buildings.

Dorchester and downtown each comprise 12 percent of the current inventory, followed by Jamaica Plain with 10 percent, according to the annual short-term rentals report submitted by the Mayor’s Office of Housing to the city council.

Short-term rentals listed on Airbnb peaked at 6,000 in September 2018 before bottoming out at 1,683 in August 2020. The report mentions a “small but notable rise” in listings of more than 28 days on Airbnb’s site, which may be an attempt to avoid regulation by the ordinance.

Owners of short-term rentals can expect to receive $1,745 in monthly rent, compared with $2,796 for a traditional long-term rental, the report stated. The data found that Beacon Hill, North End and Roslindale are the only neighborhoods where short-term rentals fetch higher income than an apartment.

Boston enacted the short-term rentals ordinance in 2018, defining the category as residential units that are offered for a fee for a period of fewer than 28 consecutive days.

Housing activists have blamed short-term rentals for shrinking the supply of affordable housing, as apartment buildings acquired by investors were converted into Airbnb-type properties.

The report notes that average sales prices of two-and three-family houses continued to rise after the ordinance took effect in 2019, only declining after the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020. 

Similarly, average rents rose $45 after the ordinance took effect before dropping $189 beginning in March 2020.

Boston is among a group of coastal cities where short-term rental activity remains below 2019 levels, according to a separate report issued by researchers AirDNA.

Short-Term Rentals Decline 16 Percent in Boston

by Steve Adams time to read: 1 min