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Airbnb’s $8 million “No on F” campaign pays off

Divisive proposition for restricting short-term rentals rejected by San Francisco voters

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
November 4, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/412a

Looks like Airbnb won in spite of themselves.

San Francisco residents voting in the November 3 election have rejected Proposition F, nicknamed the “Airbnb law” because it would place additional restrictions on short-term residential rentals.

As of this morning, there were 73.6K "No" votes versus 60.0K "Yes" votes, the slimmest margin of victory among this year's ballot propositions in the city.

In an excited blog post last night, Airbnb hailed the decision as “a victory for the middle class,” countering the narrative that Airbnb hosts are just greedy homeowners using the site to grow their wealth. Rather, Airbnb saw Prop F as “an effort designed by the hotel industry that targeted the right of the middle class to use home sharing as an economic lifeline.”

Of the 11 ballot propositions voted on by San Franciscans this week, Prop F was easily the most hotly contested, in spite of being only one among several propositions attempting to address the housing crisis in San Francisco. With supply low and demand high, housing costs have gone astronomical, with some in the city blaming Airbnb for fanning the flames by allowing city housing to be converted into short-term rentals for tourists instead of going to long-term residents.

Spending $8 million, versus the $1 million raised by “Yes on F” supporters, Airbnb launched an aggressive ad campaign throughout San Francisco to defeat the measure. It paid off.

And that’s in spite of the fact that the tech unicorn came under heavy fire last week for a series of billboards in the city that showed it to be vastly out of touch with residents. In short, the ads passive-aggressively complained about having to pay hotel taxes, which Airbnb evaded for the first six years of its operation.

While many people found the ads tasteless, Prop F remained a divisive topic among residents.

Prop F would have reduced the number of days a unit could be rented on a short-term basis from 90 days per year to 75 days per year, which clearly would have impacted how much Airbnb users could list their available spaces.

Additionally, residents offering short-term rentals would be required to submit quarterly reports indicating both the number of days they’re living in the unit and the number of days the unit is rented. And short-term rentals of in-law units would be prohibited.

Those who opposed the proposition believed the current limits on short-term rentals, which took effect last May, sufficiently maintain availability of housing in San Francisco, where residents new and old struggle to find places to live.

Proponents of Prop F, on the other hand, argued the current limits are too weak and, in some cases, unenforceable.

In any case, though Prop F has been struck down, this is far from the end of the conversation. Housing will likely be a hot button issue in San Francisco for the foreseeable future, as the tech boom continues to boom and the housing crunch continues to crunch.


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