In a major victory for Airbnb, San Francisco voters have rejected by a wide margin a measure limiting short-term rentals in the city to 75 nights a year, according to early voting results.
Residents decided on 11 ballot initiatives this year, but perhaps none has been more closely watched by the tech industry—or as contentious—as Proposition F, also known as the “Airbnb initiative.” Just yesterday, housing activists in favor of “Prop. F” stormed Airbnb’s headquarters in the rapidly gentrifying South of Market district, occupying its lobby for about an hour and a half.
With more than 65,000 mail-in votes counted on Tuesday night in San Francisco, the measure was losing big: 61% against to 39% in favor.
Airbnb has spent more than $8 million campaigning against the measure, including running a series of tone-deaf ads that it subsequently apologized for and pulled. In addition to the 75-night cap, Proposition F would have required hosts to file quarterly reports with the city’s planning department, and relied on neighbors to ensure residents were complying with the limits.
The company has insisted that further restrictions to its service would only hurt the middle class, who rely on supplemental income from renting their homes to stay in the city. Last year, San Francisco passed a ballot initiative requiring hosts to obtain permits with the city and rent out their homes for no more than 90 nights a year. But enforcement has been difficult, with only a fraction of hosts registering and Airbnb refusing to hand over booking information.
Activists argue that Airbnb is displacing residents by removing available units from the housing market, further exacerbating the city’s housing crisis—where 63% of homes are valued at $1 million or more and median rents recently crept past $4,000. A report from the city’s budget analyst released in May found up to 2,000 units in San Francisco were not permanently occupied so they could be rented out to tourists.