Proposition F was one initiative on the November 3rd ballot addressing the housing market in San Francisco. Popularly known as the Airbnb initiative, Prop F would have imposed restrictions on short term rentals in the city. Restrictions included imposing hotel taxes on private rentals and limiting rentals to 75 nights a year. The proposition did not pass and as college students and residents of San Francisco, we were disappointed with this result.
The housing market in this city has been rapidly changing in the past couple of years, particularly because of the expansion of tech companies in the Bay Area and the popularity of companies like Airbnb. The influx of people in San Francisco who benefit from skyrocketing tech salaries has been rapid, which means rent prices have also been skyrocketing. According to Ballotpedia, Airbnb provided 95% of the approximately 8.3 million dollars used to fund the opposition campaign for this proposition. The supporting campaign for Proposition F was just under $300,000, as of October 17th. Do these numbers indicate that more people truly wanted Proposition F not to pass or do they indicate that those who were against this Prop had access to a lot more money than those who wanted the Prop to pass?
If Proposition F had passed, there would have been some long-term benefits resulting from the restrictions, for students and for other people of lower economic status living in San Francisco. Limiting nightly rentals to 75 nights a year allows for the creation of more permanent long term rentals, which can only be beneficial to the USF students desperately searching for remotely affordable off-campus housing. More permanent long term rentals means the housing market will grow, and in a bigger market, rent prices will lower.
There was some dissent among staff regarding Proposition F and the argument was made that some students benefit from a lack of Airbnb restrictions. Students have used Airbnb to rent out their own spaces to earn extra income. However, San Francisco is also in the midst of a shortage of people who work in the service industry directly because of the incredible increase in rent. This means that there are definitely employment opportunities available for students who are looking for ways to make money outside renting out their rooms on Airbnb. Another argument was made that students like ourselves benefit from the existence of Airbnb, as many cannot afford to stay in hotels when they visit other cities as tourists. However, the plight of local San Franciscans who are scrambling to afford to stay in this city should be prioritized more than the expansion of the San Francisco tourist grid.
We acknowledge the benefits that Airbnb offer with their services, which include providing alternative spaces for short-term rentals and providing an outlet for people to make money from their own housing. But the problem Proposition F was trying to address was going to provide a more effective, long-term solution to the problem of the housing crisis in San Francisco. We are disheartened to see that this measure did not pass and we would like to see the city government continue to pursue short-term rental restrictions.