San Francisco lawmakers OK Airbnb rentals

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 5:30 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco lawmakers have tentatively approved a measure that would allow city residents to rent out their homes to travelers on sites such as Airbnb.

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 on Tuesday in favor of short-term rentals with some restrictions, including a cap on the number of days an entire home can be rented out each year.

A second vote is still needed for the measure to go into effect. But that is expected to be perfunctory, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who crafted the regulation, said he was trying to strike a balance between preserving affordable housing and allowing residents to earn extra income. Critics had called for more stringent restrictions.

"The status quo isn't working; we have seen an explosion in short-term rentals," said Chiu, who spent more than two years crafting the bill.

San Francisco currently bans residential rentals of less than 30 days, but the city does little to enforce it. The new legislation would allow them but with certain limitations.

The law, which would take effect in February, allows only permanent residents to offer short-term rentals; it requires hosts register with the city and get a business license and permit; and it mandates the collection of hotel tax. It also limits entire-home rentals to 90 days per year, requires each listing to carry $500,000 in liability insurance, and establishes guidelines for enforcement by the Planning Department.

Airbnb, the dominant short-term rental site in San Francisco, has about 5,000 listings here, two-thirds of them in entire homes, according to a Chronicle analysis.

For the 6-year-old San Francisco startup, the passage is seen as a step forward in legalizing its business model in its hometown and clarifying the rules by which it must abide.

Airbnb in a statement underscored its contention that most hosts are community members trying to make ends meet. The law "will give regular people the right to share the home in which they live," Airbnb said.

Cities throughout the U.S. are passing legislation to regulate web-based businesses.

For short-term lodging services, cities including Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, have focused their energies on imposing local hotel taxes, establishing basic registration programs, and making sure property owners meet minimum housing standards.