SF housing crisis takes on larger role in Airbnb debate 

click to enlarge Home Sharers of San Francisco is one of the groups supporting short-term rental websites like Airbnb despite a recent report saying those companies hurt city housing. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
  • Home Sharers of San Francisco is one of the groups supporting short-term rental websites like Airbnb despite a recent report saying those companies hurt city housing.
San Francisco’s debate over short-term rental regulations is heating up after a new report says Airbnb hosts are exacerbating The City’s housing crisis.

The fight comes to a head Monday when the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee will vote on how to change a 4-month-old failed law that legalized short-term rentals but has since been deemed unenforceable by city officials.

On Thursday, Supervisor David Campos and tenants-rights advocates held a news conference on the report he commissioned that he claims proves Airbnb is exacerbating the housing crisis and supports his call for tougher regulations on short-term rental websites.

The report by the budget analyst found up to 2,000 entire units, or 23 percent of available vacant units citywide, have been removed from the housing market due to Airbnb hosts, as reported by The San Francisco Examiner this week. The impact is based on entire units booked by hosts in excess of 58 days. Bookings of private or shared rooms are not included, but would reduce the rental stock further.

The impacts vary by neighborhood, but places like the Mission and the Haight are hit hardest.

The Planning Commission has recently recommended changes to the law, favoring certain provisions proposed by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell, which cap nights at 120 days, not 60 days as Campos proposes.

The commission hasn’t recommended requiring online hosting platforms like Airbnb to provide booking data nor requirements that would mean fines for platforms that list units without a registration number — provisions Campos and his backers say are essential for effective enforcement.

In response to the report, Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty said in a statement: “Home sharing is an economic lifeline for thousands of San Franciscans who depend on the extra income to stay in their homes. Supervisor Campos’ proposal would make it even harder for middle class families to stay in San Francisco and pay the bills.” Nulty also suggested the report overstates the impact on the housing market.

But Campos argued that his legislation “would not impact the causal Airbnb user, the middle-class family that uses Airbnb to go away for the weekend or when they go on vacation.”

“What Airbnb is doing is taking away from the housing market thousands of units that are essentially helping to displace San Franciscans in every neighborhood,” Campos added.

Said Sarah Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee: “It is a travesty that at the very time we are seeing this huge increase in evictions, we are also seeing a huge percentage of our vacant units being taken up by short term rentals.”

The report identified more than 6,000 Airbnb listings. The existing law that legalized the practice requires hosts to register before they list their units. But as of May 2, only 330 have received registration numbers, according to the Planning Department.

San Francisco is among cities around the world grappling with the explosion of the short-term rental industry. Most recently, Santa Monica banned short-term rentals of one’s home.

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