S.F. Is Struggling to Make Good on Airbnb Regulation

City officials can’t tell if Airbnb hosts are playing by the rules.

The Airbnb Haus at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 (PRNewsFoto/Airbnb)

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San Francisco’s attempt to legalize the murky realm of Airbnb living in February is already facing its own set of gray-area problems, leading officials to seek new methods of pushing the room-renting company to an officially legal citywide status.

The city’s Airbnb law allows San Francisco residents to rent out their homes as long as they live there for at least nine months of the year and register as hosts with the city. One reason for this regulation was to discourage property owners from buying San Francisco property solely to offer short-term rentals. As is the case in cities like Portland and New York, Airbnb rentals highlight citywide affordable housing problems in San Francisco.

But just one month in, the city’s planning department says the law is basically impossible to enforce.

From the San Francisco Business Times:

To enforce the Airbnb law, the city needs booking data so the planning department can make sure rentals are registered with the city. It also needs a clear limit on the number of days a unit can be rented out each year. Currently, the law says an owner can rent 90 days if they aren’t home, but that’s difficult to prove. The department also wants more funding to administer the law.

It took a prolonged court battle and the state attorney general’s zeal to get Airbnb to agree to hand over its list of hosts in New York City, which is wrestling with regulation too. According to Real Estate Weekly, just last week, city council members in NYC “called for increasing the size of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) in order to address the rising concerns surrounding Airbnb and other short-term rental services.”

Time reports that S.F. Supervisor David Campos proposed Tuesday to strengthen the law by forcing companies like Airbnb to share rental data. An Airbnb rep told the news outlet:

“Elected officials spent three years debating all aspects of this issue before passing comprehensive legislation, but some folks still don’t think you should be able to occasionally share the home in which you live. We should all be striving to make the law work but these ad hoc rules and this new bill just make things more confusing.”

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Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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Tags: affordable housingsan franciscoairbnbsharing economy

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