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Tomorrow (Tuesday November 3rd), voters in San Francisco will go to the ballot to decide on Prop F – a measure introduced to regulate short-term rentals (also more popularly known as “the Airbnb law”. I do not live in San Francisco, and have actually never stayed in an airbnb (though I have a few plans to do so). I do not own any airbnb homes, though I have investigated it – I do own 3 traditional rental homes.
So I don’t feel like I really have a dog in this fight, so I’m attempting to sum up the cases for and against Airbnb Prop F in as unbiased a matter as possible.
Airbnb Prop F details
Here is a preamble of Airbnb Prop F
The case for Airbnb Prop F
Some of the arguments FOR Airbnb Prop F in San Francisco are arguing that many airbnb rentals are not being offered by people offering out their spare rooms, but by professional landlords and companies who are in some cases taking properties out of the pool of regular rental homes and converting them to tourist accomodations, and competing with hotels and other vacation properties.
In some cities (like New York), there have also been reports of landlords taking rent controlled properties off the market and converting them to airbnb (or other short-term rental) listings.
These measures are being funded in part, not surprisingly, by hotel lobbying groups.
The main lobbying against working to defeat Airbnb Prop F is funded by Airbnb itself. They originally had gotten into some trouble with the way that they advertised against Prop F, but they ended up pulling some of those ads.
One argument against Prop F is that it overly specific, and such regulation should be covered by the (already existing) short-term rental laws.
There’s also the argument against Airbnb Prop F argue that there will be an incentive to sue your neighbors, and even if you’re found innocent, you still end up having to pay your own legal costs and lawyer fees!
How to regulate a fast-moving market
Regardless of where you stand on whether airbnb (and Uber, and Lyft, and other sharing economy companies) should be regulated, I do feel like a ballot measure is just about the worst way to do it. As one site put it, imagine we were all living under the MySpace Law of 2006… :-). Of course, it could be worse – in Ohio where I live, in 2009 they AMENDED THE STATE CONSTITUTION just to put in casinos, in 3 specific cities! It feels kind of like amputating your finger to take care of a hangnail 🙂
So if Prop F passes and then ends up not working out exactly as intended, the only way to counteract it would be, as I understand it, another ballot initiative in November 2016. That seems… less than ideal than just having the City of San Francisco either enforce the already existing short-term rental laws (it’s not quite the Wild West out there!), or, if those existing laws don’t cover all of the intended scenarios, then pass some new ones!
I have not explored every possible argument for and against Airbnb Prop F – but if you live in San Francisco, I urge you to research the issues, vote on Election Day and make your voice heard!
It will be an interesting race to watch on Election Day!