San Francisco Takes Aim at Airbnb

Soirée 8, celebrating the San Francisco LGBT Community Center?s eighth Anniversary. Located at the Terra Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Throughout the San Francisco housing debate, home sharing services like Airbnb have become a lightning rod for controversy. These companies allow homeowners to easily rent out individual rooms, or their entire house, to short term guests (oftentimes vacationers). By providing online platforms that are quite easy to use, firms like Airbnb have facilitated an explosion of home sharing in the city. Critics argue that this has lead to landlords evicting tenants or buying up swaths of the city’s limited housing to convert the units into primarily short term rentals.

Until recently there was little evidence to back up these claims, but in May the San Francisco Legislative and Budget Analyst released a report that found between 925 and 1,960 units have been removed from the city’s housing stock as a result of Airbnb listings. While this is a relatively small percentage of the city’s total housing stock of approximately 244,012 units, it makes up a significant portion of the 8,438 available units.

This was all the smoking gun that Supervisor David Campos needed. The outspoken critic of Airbnb used the report as an opportunity to support his assertion that more needs to be done to regulate the home sharing site.

To be sure, San Francisco leaders have already attempted to place limits on short term rentals in the city. On February 1st an ordinance known as the Airbnb law took effect. This law limits the number of days homeowners can rent out their houses, and requires all would-be hosts to register with the city. However, with a little less than four months in action, the city’s Planning Department has called the law unenforceable since Airbnb keeps much of the data about their hosts private and allows homeowners to put listings on their site without first determining that the owner has registered with the city.

This has lead Campos to propose a new law that would limit all short term rentals to 60 days a year. His law would also require home sharing companies to provide quarterly reports on who is renting out units, an idea that Airbnb has long opposed saying it would compromise hosts’ privacy.

Campos’s law will have to compete with a similar proposal from fellow Supervisor Mark Ferrell. Ferrell’s law would place the rental cap at 120 days a year, as well as create and fund a new city office to more effectively investigate and enforce short-term rental laws.

Throwing a bit of a loop into the debate is another report, this one by the city’s chief economist, which claims that it is essentially impossible to determine how much of the city’s housing stock has been removed as a result of short term rentals. What the report does make clear, however, is that a host would have to rent out a unit for at least 123 days a year in order to make more money than having a long term lease.

Given all this, which proposal do you support? Limiting the number of days to 60 or 120? Do you think companies like Airbnb should submit quarterly rental reports? Can a compromise be struck between these two measures, or should the city’s leaders do something else entirely? Vote and comment here.

Cap Airbnb rentals at 60 days per year

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has proposed legislation that would limit the number of days hosts could rent out their homes or rooms to 60 a year. This comes in the wake of an explosion of short term rentals, facilitated by companies such as Airbnb. Campos’s legislation would also require short term rental companies to submit quarterly reports on who is renting out units, fine companies up to $1,000 a day for showcasing landlords who haven’t registered with the city, and allow private citizens to sue landlords who exceed the 60 day limit.


Cap the Number of Days an Airbnb Rental can be Rented Out at 120 per year.

This initiative would cap the number of days an Airbnb rental unit can be rented out per year at 120. This is partly to recoup some of the permanent housing stock that has been converted into short term rentals, as well as reduce any other impacts that may be resulting from these types of rentals, (parking, neighborhood character, etc.).

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