Your Home is Still Your Castle

The citizens of San Francisco spoke loud and clear on Election Night.  They want control over how they share their homes – including the right to use short-term rentals to help cover the cost of home ownership in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

Proposition F (Prop F) would have made home ownership in San Francisco even more unaffordable than it already is, by restricting homeowners’ ability to host short-term rentals enabled by online services like Airbnb and HomeAway.  These hosting platforms have provided homeowners across the nation with help to fund their American dream. 

Nationally, more than 80 percent of Airbnb hosts share their primary home.  52 percent of hosts in low to moderate income households earn about $7,500 per year. Half of the rental income hosts earn through Airbnb is used to cover household expenses, and most hosts said that those expenses would not be covered without guest rentals.

These are not hotel operators we are talking about.  There really is no worry that your next-door neighbor will paint their roof orange and resurrect the Howard Johnson’s chain. But, it’s no surprise that large hotel chains were the largest funders of the campaign for the new restrictions in Prop F.

Prop F proponents said the measure would merely have limited short-term rentals to 75 days and require platforms to take-down listings that reached the limit.  Prop F would have also required the city to notify neighbors when a person registers to host.  And it would have empowered the city to sue hosts and hosting platforms for failing to comply with multiple new regulations.

At face value, some of the Prop F regulations may have sounded practical.  But it doesn’t take much digging to find troubling issues below the surface.

Should the city force businesses to turnover customer records to the government without a warrant?  How would an online rental platform know if a host exceeds the 75-day limit, since hosts may use multiple platforms to advertise their property?   Should the city notify my neighbors just because I want to legally share my own home?  Will San Franciscans host their homes at all, when faced with the threat of $1000 per day in fines?

The long and short is that Prop F would make it harder to supplement your income and could make San Francisco home ownership even less affordable than it already is – as if you thought that were even possible.

The citizens of San Francisco understood the ramifications of Prop F and stood up for their property rights.  Sadly, this is not the end of the fight, since the San Francisco Board of Supervisors still has the power to take unilateral action to enact regulations similar to Prop F.

San Franciscans sent a clear message clear on November 3rd.  Let’s hope their elected officials get the message, and respect the rights of city homeowners to lawfully host paying visitors in their own homes and castles.

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