News Briefs

Supes Target Airbnb

Multiple pieces of legislation working their way through city political channels would tighten regulation of residential short-term rental (STR) services. Supervisor David Campos is seeking to dramatically lower the number of days Airbnb hosts or lessors can rent out their units each year. Supervisors London Breed and Jane Kim are proposing to exclude from eligibility for short-term rentals certain units that have had Ellis Act evictions for a period of five years after.Meanwhile, District Two Supervisor Mark Farrell and Mayor Ed Lee are looking to strengthen regulation and make other refinements to last year’s legislation that finally legalized the short-term residential rental market in the city.

At the request of Supervisor David Campos, San Francisco’s budget and legislative analyst office issued a report that “between 925 and 1,960 units citywide have been removed from the housing market from just Airbnb listings. At between 0.4 and 0.8 percent, this number of units is a small percentage of the 244,012 housing units that comprised the rental market in 2013.” However, the report said that as a percentage of the estimated 8,438 vacant units in the city in 2013, “the percentage is estimated to be between 11.0 and 23.2 percent.”

Further, the budget office said regulation and enforcement of the rules that were instituted in the legislation that legalized short-term rentals for Airbnb and similar services are not yet sufficient. “Hosts are required to pay hotel taxes for every booking and register with the city’s Planning Department. The treasurer and tax collector reports that hotel taxes are being paid by short-term rental hosts but cannot disclose information about the total number of hosts with business licenses. The Planning Department reports that, as of May 1, 2015, only 579 hosts had applied for now required registration and 282 certificates have been issued. Given the 6,113 listings identified for just Airbnb in December 2014, compliance with the registration requirement has been low.”

As reported in the Roundup last month, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Farrell have proposed amendments to the Airbnb law to limit short-term rentals to 120 days per year and set up a city office to oversee enforcement of the industry.

A report from the San Francisco Planning Department downplayed the likelihood that short-term rentals were removing sizable numbers of units from the regular rental market. While acknowledging a lack of solid data, the report looks at available information and says “the median number of days where STR use would outcompete residential use is about 257 days. This provides assurance that the highest STR cap proposed (120 day limit) in the pending ordinances would still protect housing by ensuring that residential use would be more lucrative than STR.”

In April, Airbnb said its own findings showed that Airbnb’s “community” contributed $469 million to the city’s economy in the past year, with the average host earning $13,000 a year. It also tried to counter the worries about impact on rental markets by claiming “typical Airbnb property is booked about 6.5 nights per month, underscoring the point that these are people who are

simply sharing space in the home in which they live.”

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