A city worried that the explosion of short lets offered via Airbnb may worsen its existing housing crisis is next month deciding whether to dramatically restrict the online service, in a test case being watched by London and other urban centres.
City legislators in San Francisco will next month decide whether to restrict Airbnb, which currently has an estimated 5,000 listings in the city.
Proposals under consideration will limit the number of days renting is permitted - one to 120 days a year, the other to 60 days a year. Under one suggestion, Airbnb would also have to file quarterly reports of its transactions within the city boundaries.
Critics in San Francisco - and now some in New York, too - say too many landlords have taken their properties off the conventional six or 12 month lettings market, and instead are letting the units out to tourists and short-term visitors via Airbnb, thereby exacerbating the housing shortage in both cities.
Supporters, however, say the online service is an easy way for home owners or landlords to make additional income. This sentiment was the one that fuelled the last Westminster government’s decision to relax planning controls on London residential properties which were being made available for short lets. In Philadelphia on the east of the US, the local government has just legalised the letting of private property through Airbnb, in time for the visit of the Pope to the city in September, and the Democratic National Convention in the city, later in the year.
The San Francisco vote, being taken within the next four weeks, is being watched closely by other cities around the world - no plans as to how to police the restriction have yet been made public, if the decision is to restrict is agreed.