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City prepares pioneering cap on Airbnb short lets

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.

  • Kenny Sahota

    Yes, it would be very interesting to see exactly how this rule, if decided, would be enforced and regulated. It seems that like London, San Francisco is experiencing a housing shortage which is only being exacerbated by the increasing amount of short-term lets. I understand the benefits in which Airbnb offer, but it's impacting the lettings industry in a negative way.

  • Robert  McKechnie

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out. Airbnb has proved very useful for many people, but if it is helping to exacerbate the housing shortage in London and other cities, then it's something that can't really be ignored.

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