Airbnb scored a major victory on Wednesday by beating Proposition F, which sought to limit short-term rentals in San Francisco. But the $25.5 billion lodging startup acknowledges that the political battle is nowhere near over.
As such, Airbnb has started laying the groundwork for global expansion by seeking to recruit foot soldiers to help advance its cause.
“Airbnb knows there will always be a public policy threat out there that could shake up their business in a fundamental way, so it makes sense that they’d take the next step to try to build their network,” Edward Walker, a UCLA sociology professor and author of Grassroots for Hire told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Chris Lehane, Airbnb head of global policy, reportedly said the company’s goal is to create “independent clubs” that will be run by hosts and guests. According to the Chronicle, the clubs will provide these grassroots supporters with help in the form of dedicated Airbnb staff, information, support and a hotline to its headquarters in order “to build on the momentum coming from San Francisco.”
So far, Airbnb has over 2 million listings in 34,000 cities. Across the nation, it faces mounting political opposition from a mix of housing activists, unions, hotel industry lobbyists, and anti-gentrification groups.
Those in favor of Prop F blamed the company for exacerbating the city’s mass displacement of residents as homeowners turned scarce apartments and homes into hotel rooms–or turn residential property into commercial property, evicting residents in the process.
Meanwhile, Airbnb’s deep pockets could become significantly shallower, considering the amount of money it will need to shell out to fight against local initiatives expected elsewhere.
“It is conceivable there could be a number of ballot initiatives in a number of cities around the U.S. next year,” Dale Carlson, co-founder of the pro-Proposition F group ShareBetter, told recode.net. “Instead of Airbnb spending $12 million, it could be $100 million.”
Since October, Airbnb had spent $8.5 million fighting Prop F. Still, it only beat the measure by about 14,000 votes–a very expensive margin of about $600 per winning vote.
Recode attributes Airbnb’s success at the ballots to an ever-changing demographic in San Francisco, which has made it a hub for the well-to-do. Even wealthy residents, however, often need to make extra cash to pay the mortgage or the rent.
With median rent for a two-bedroom apartment ringing in at $5,000, and a rotting 756-square-foot earthquake shack selling for $400,000, it should come as less than a surprise that Prop F was defeated at the polls this week.