Airbnb softens rhetoric, pledges to comply with regulations

San Francisco is one of several US cities who are making moves to curb the reach of the short-term rentals company.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg/File
This photo taken Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 shows a billboard opposing ballot Propositon F that would place restrictions on short term rentals in San Francisco.

Following the defeat last week of Proposition F, a ballot measure that would have restricted Airbnb’s ability to provide short-term rentals in the Bay Area, Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s director of global policy and public affairs, sounded confident.

“There is going to be more people doing home-sharing tomorrow than there are today, there is going to be more the day after that,” he told The New York Times. “This is now a movement.”

But a week later, Airbnb appears to be pivoting 180 degrees from its original position. On Wednesday, Airbnb introduced a document, called the Airbnb Community Compact, that outlines its intentions for working with local governments going forward. Among other things, the startup pledges to pay hotel and tourist taxes and to prevent illegal landlords from using the site.

“Given the size of the Airbnb community, this just seems like the right time for us to be very specific about the types of commitments we’re willing to make,” Mr. Lehane told the Times. “Cities are looking to do the right thing, and they need the right information to do so.”

If passed, Proposition F would have required hosts seeking to rent their properties for the short-term to register them as temporary rentals prior to posting their listings on sites like Airbnb, and then go through the additional step of verifying their registration. It would have also allowed suspected violations to be captured by San Francisco’s Planning Department.

Airbnb has drawn its fair share of criticism, in particular for the ways in which it is seen as disrupting housing markets.

By making apartments, sublets, and homes available, but only for short periods of time and only to tourists, critics argue that Airbnb reduces the availability of affordable housing for locals who want to rent, and shifts the balance in favor of tourists, who typically rent only for short periods of time and then leave.

For example, the data shows that 82.2 percent of homes on Airbnb in New York are listed as having high availability. These are listings that experience frequent turnover, closing out the availability of these addresses for renters who are serious about staying in one place for the long term.

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