San Francisco has come up with a new solution as it seeks to deal with short-terms rentals and the rise of home-sharing startup Airbnb.
On Thursday, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee will announced a new Office of Short Term Rental Administration and Enforcement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The six-person team will be tasked both with handling the registration of hosts as well as cracking down on violations.
Airbnb, a seven-year-old startup now valued at more than $25 billion, lets people rent out spare rooms or an entire unit to guests for a fee. The company, which has always maintained that it’s nothing more than a technology company providing a marketplace, takes a cut from these bookings. However, it’s come under fire, especially in cities like San Francisco where rents are rising fast amid a housing shortage, and many tenants and landlords are turning to Airbnb’s service to help pay for rent or make extra money.
As the newspaper notes, short-term rentals, defined as stays for less than 30 nights, were illegal in San Francisco for years, but laws weren’t enforced until a partial legalization was passed in February. The new regulation has capped short-term rentals to 90 days annually, unless the host is living in the unit at the same time as the guest, in which case there is no limit. Later this month, the city’s Board of Supervisors is expected to consider two competing proposals to amend the legislation: a stricter one that would cap rentals to 60 days per year, and a more generous one that would extend them to 120 days.
It’s also requiring hosts to register with the city, something only 700 have done so far. However, there are more than 5,000 listings in San Francisco on Airbnb’s marketplace. The new office is intended to make the registration process easier for hosts, many who have complained about the complications involved.
But whether this new initiative helps to ease the tensions in San Francisco remains to be seen. While it may make things easier for hosts who want to make money by renting out extra space in their homes within the city’s rules, it could spell bad news for landlords who’ve been using Airbnb to turn their properties into shorter term rentals.
One alternative for the latter group could be start renting out their units for terms that start at 30 days, and use services like HomeSuite to market and fill those rentals. As HomeSuite co-founder and CEO David Adams told Fortune via email, none of the above regulations apply to listings through his company.