Damning Analysis Shows Airbnb's Impact on San Francisco Housing

The San Francisco Chronicle analyzed local Airbnb listings in order to measure the site's impact on the housing shortage. Among nearly 5,000 listings, two-thirds were entire houses or apartments where the host would not be present, "contradicting" the $10 billion company's self-portrayal as a "sharing economy" service.

The analysis, conducted by the data extraction firm Connotate, showed that 160 of those entire homes and apartments were available for rent full time, "giving weight to arguments that the service is allowing landlords to flout strict rental laws," says The Chronicle.

After mapping the data, Connotate found two hotels worth of housing being rented in the Mission:

The Mission District, one of San Francisco's most densely populated areas with 34,000 residents, had the most Airbnb rentals of any neighborhood with 681 — equal to two Union Square Marriotts. Of those, 389 were entire houses.

Last February, the travel blog Skift also used Connotate to analyze Airbnb's impact in New York City. This is particularly significant because New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman cited Connotate's report in an affidavit (embedded here) attempting to subpoena illegal Airbnb users.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has a friendlier relationship with Airbnb. But the data, which was extracted from site on May 19th, points to scenarios that could violate local regulations and end up invaliding a lease as eviction rates rise. According to the San Francisco Apartment Association:

Current San Francisco law prohibits short term rentals of less than 32 days, and no-subletting clauses in apartment leases prohibit residents from re-renting to others, nightly or otherwise. However, many tenants might not know that by using apartment-sharing websites to generate additional income, they could be violating their lease and several local laws, jeopardizing their housing in the process.

The vast majority of San Francisco hosts—86.4 percent—only had a single listing on the site, indicating that they were renting out their own home. But the Chronicle says the 513 hosts with multiple listings "could be treating a handful of units as more-lucrative vacation rentals."

Airbnb, which was founded in San Francisco in 2008, agreed to have hosts start paying the city's 14 percent hotel tax around the same time as it secured $450 million in financing, its fourth round of venture capital.

The number of San Francisco listings on Airbnb have nearly tripled in the past couple years. The paper says it may have been even higher months ago, before hosts removed listings for fear of being evicted or violating regulations.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via The San Francisco Chronicle]