Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation, infrastructure, and the environment. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps that reveal and shape urban spaces (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles, GOOD, L.A. Review of Books, and beyond.
One of the most aggressive moves yet in the online rental battle seems virtually impossible to enforce.
This week in Airbnb vs. the World, two significant developments out of California.
On Thursday, the city of San Francisco released a report detailing the negative impact of Airbnb on its airtight housing stock, revealing that somewhere between 925 and 1,960 units have been removed from the regular rental market so that their owners can rent them out to short-term visitors via Airbnb.
The finding comes mere months after San Francisco passed a law requiring short-term rental owners to register with the city, pay a hotel tax, and limit guest stays to 60 consecutive days. Unsurprisingly, the compliance rate has been about as slim as the housing supply, and city planners already say the law is unenforceable and needs to change.
Which probably doesn’t lend much confidence to Santa Monica’s decision this week to ban all rentals lasting fewer than 30 days. According to the Los Angeles Times, the law permits homeowners to rent out spare rooms, but will require them to obtain business licenses and pay a hotel tax. It may be the most aggressive attempt yet by a city to block the avalanche of rentals off Airbnb and other sites. The L.A. Times reports:
Santa Monica officials admit they may struggle to rein in the booming industry. The new rule outlaws more than 80% of the city's estimated 1,700 short-term rentals, but the city plans to hire only two code enforcement officers and a data analyst with revenue from the home-sharing tax.
"The profit margin is so great, and the demand is so great," Scott Shatford, who has three Santa Monica listings on Airbnb, told the L.A. Times. "If people recognize the dollars are there to do it, they'll figure out any possible method to make it work."
Will other cities follow Santa Monica’s lead?