San Francisco votes against measures to restrict Airbnb

A ballot measure had aimed to restrict short-term rentals of a housing unit to 75 days per year

Airbnb and the so-called "sharing economy" got a shot in the arm as early results on Tuesday suggested that the voters in San Francisco had voted down a measure that would place tight restrictions on the operation of short-term vacation rental businesses.

In the wake of accusations that operations like Airbnb were helping push up rents in San Francisco, Proposition F aimed to limit short-term rentals of a housing unit to 75 days per year, among other measures.

More than 55 percent of the about 133,000 ballots cast had opposed the proposition, according to data from the San Francisco Department of Elections. A proposition is a referendum in California that can amend or add to state laws.

The vote in San Francisco where Airbnb is based is important for the company as a victory for Proposition F could have lead to copycat measures in other cities where the company operates. It also apparently reflects a shift in thinking about the "sharing economy," and its implications for residents and the economy. Airbnb's app-based service provides a marketplace for people to list, discover, and book accommodations.

Most of the voters apparently did not agree with the claims of groups like ShareBetter SF that short-term rentals, most  of which were said to be illegal, made the housing crisis in San Francisco worse. Some other groups found the proposed measures too extreme and said it wasn't accurate to blame home-rental services for the housing shortage and rising rents in San Francisco. 

Airbnb, which reportedly spent US$8 million to persuade voters to block the proposition, known widely as Prop. F, argued that short-term rentals provided income to residents who were now able to stay in homes they could not otherwise afford.

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