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  • California Voters Save AirBnB

    Let the Cali tourist industry rejoice.

    San Francisco voters rejected an initiative Nov. 3 that would regulate home sharing companies like Airbnb and Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO).

    According to USA Today, 55 percent of voters opposed the proposal, which would have capped those with spare rooms or homes to renting that space for 75 days. Also, the companies would have had to submit reports detailing how often they rented to travelers and how many days they themselves lived in their home.

    Businesses like Airbnb are part of the sharing economy, similar to Uber and Lyft. They operate by offering short-term rental space to customers. (RELATED: Study: Gig Economy Puts Two Million Americans To Work, Accounts For 30 Percent Of New Jobs.)

    Known as Proposition F, the purpose of the law was “to stop the proliferations of short-term rentals through online travel agencies by requiring the registration prior to listing with an online travel agency; the verification of registration by the agencies prior to accepting listings, and allowing citizens to enforce the requirement of this ordinance through a complaint process.”

    Christopher Nulty, a representative for Airbnb, called the rejection of the rule “a decisive victory for the middle class, voters stood up for working families’ right to share their homes and opposed an extreme, hotel industry-backed measure.” He said the “victory was made possible by the 138,000 members of the Airbnb community who had conversations with over 105,000 voters and knocked on 285,000 doors. The effort showed that home sharing is both a community and a movement.”

    ShareBetter SF, a coalition backed by hotel unions and neighborhood associations, was the primary movement in support of Proposition F.

    Dale Carlson, a representative for ShareBetter SF, expressed disappointment at the loss, but maintained that despite the vote, a serious problem still needs to be addressed.

    “Let’s be clear: if Airbnb were only about people renting spare rooms, Prop F wouldn’t have been on the ballot,” Carlson said in a statement. “The fact is rampant abuse of short-term rentals is taking much-needed housing off the market and harming our neighborhoods.”

    San Franscico is currently facing a housing crisis. According to the LA Times, the “influx of tech workers and a lack of housing have driven the median price of a one-bedroom apartment to $4,000 a month. Lower-income residents complain they are being pushed out amid the boom.” (RELATED: Labor Department Joins War Against The Sharing Economy.)

    ShareBetter SF pointed out that 94 percent of Airbnb’s current listings in San Francisco are unregistered and illegal. The group believes that the temporary rentals are driving up housing prices. In addition, they stated that thousands of the homes Airbnb uses should be provided to local residents rather than being rented to short-term tourists.

    Airbnb suppporters, on the other hand, argue that short-term rentals allow middle-class residents to make money from unused housing. That extra income allows renters to stay in an increasingly expensive city.

    Carlson remained determined, however, saying the coalition “will keep pushing for stronger, enforceable regulations. We want effective remedies to the problems caused by Airbnb’s short-term rentals. We’re prepared to go back to the ballot to ensure residents and neighborhoods are protected from abusive short-term rentals.”

    Follow Steve Ambrose on Twitter

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