By Emma McGowan
I got an email this morning from Airbnb with the subject line “Stop the Evictions and Protect Home-sharing in San Francisco,” and thought: Yes! Finally! Airbnb is taking a stance on the housing crisis in San Francisco!
And then I actually opened the email.
Turns out, Airbnb is not turning its funds or influence toward helping the anti-eviction movement or to take down the Ellis Act. Nope, the evictions it's referring to are Airbnb hosts who have been kicked out of their homes because the current law in SF makes short-term rentals illegal in buildings with four or more units.
Co-opting terms like “predatory landlords” from the anti-eviction movement, Airbnb’s email is a call for help in the form of petition signatures asking the government to change the laws. This come right on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introducing legislation that would regulate short-term rentals, giving protection to tenants who rent their homes. If passed, this legislation is a huge victory for Airbnb, taking it out of the gray zone it's existed in since its launch in 2008.
It's obviously horrible when anyone is evicted with only 72-hours notice, but I can’t help feeling uncomfortable at the corporate adaptation of this activist cause. With people being pushed out of their homes daily and Ellis Act evictions in particular rising exponentially, it can be hard to see Airbnb as anything but contributing to the problem of restricted housing stock in San Francisco.
Now, of course, I understand that some folks rent out their spare rooms on Airbnb in order to actually afford their astronomical rents, and I myself have enjoyed Airbnb stays in cities across the world. When my parents came to visit me in March, they stayed in a beautiful apartment in the Haight using Airbnb. While they had a great experience, I felt slightly uneasy with the whole situation. Here was a beautiful one bedroom apartment with vintage built in cabinets and amazing woodwork that would never be available to San Francisco residents like my boyfriend and me. Doesn’t reserving these places for tourists ultimately hurt our city, whose biggest problem these days is rising rents?
Airbnb, I’m glad you’re standing up for your hosts who are getting evicted but, since you’re up already, think you could put some of that powerful voice towards the rest of the city?
Image via Thinkstock