Regular Airbnb hosts are able to make enough profit to afford San Francisco’s skyrocketing cost of living, according to a new report from city officials [PDF]. The average host is making $440 profit per month (after rent), and some neighborhoods are snagging upwards of $1,900 a month.
San Francisco has notoriously high (read: insane) rental prices. The median asking price for a one-bedroom is an estimated $3,460 a month, which is more than double what it was in 2009, according to public data from rental site RentJungle.com.
The city found that about 15% of vacant units are now being used for Airbnb rentals, which is only exacerbating the housing crunch. Critics want caps on Airbnb rentals to make space for existing residents, while hosts claim that the service is a life-line in the face of otherwise unaffordable rental hikes.
The core of the housing debate in San Francisco is between local residents who want to preserve the quaint feel of the city’s Victorian neighborhoods and those who want to welcome all newcomers, even if it means drastically changing the city landscape. So far, entrenched residents are winning by placing strict height limits and regulatory hurdles on most new developments.
As price-constrained residents are forced to turn themselves into a hotel service through Airbnb, local critics have banded together in bounty hunter units, snitching on their neighbors for violating rental laws. Currently, renters must show up in person to register as an Airbnb host and can rent out their units a limited number of days, but the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce the law.
I spoke to Airbnb’s most vocal critic, Mission District Supervisor David Campos, and he told me that the problem could be completely solved if the city would just build more housing. “Increasing height limits — I’ve always said that upzoing for the purpose of increasing affordable housing is part of the equation,” he told me, in carefully chosen words.
Campos has been hawkish on ensuring that most new units are offered at below market rates and called for a moratorium on new development until a plan can be put forth to help existing residents.
But evidently, even the most vocal critics of Airbnb agree that if the city could just build more units, none of this would be a problem.
Until then, I’m thinking about joining Airbnb before rental costs knock me out of the city.
*The Ferenstein Wire is a syndicated news service. For inquires, email the editor at greg at greg ferenstein dot com. The Tableau map file to recreate the image is available here.