Airbnb in San Francisco: By The Numbers

Today, we’re releasing new data specific to the Airbnb community in San Francisco. We are also discussing some of the work we have done to remove unwelcome listings from our platform and steps we are taking to make The City an even better place to visit and call home. San Francisco is unlike any city in the world and we are always trying to learn more about hosts and guests in our hometown.

As of March 15, 2016, our San Francisco community consisted of 9,448 active listings managed by 7,046 hosts:

  • Of those listings, 3,812 were private rooms or shared spaces;
  • The remaining 5,636 were entire home listings.

Of the 5,636 entire home listings, 4,487 were shared by hosts with only one entire home listing. Some hosts with more than one entire home listing are traditional hospitality companies like boutique hotels and timeshare hotels. Others offer long-term housing, setting limits that only allow for guest reservation requests of 30 days or more.

This chart provides more details:

Listings as of March 15, 2016 # of active listings Listings as % of all active entire home listings in SF (5,636) Listings as % of total all active listings in SF (9,448)
Total number of entire home listings managed by hosts with more than 1 entire home listing 1,149 20% 12%
entire home listings in traditional hotels 104 2% 1%
Long-term entire home listings 374 7% 4%
All other entire home listings from hosts with more than 1 entire home listing 671 12% 7%

We also examined host revenue in San Francisco for our hosts with multiple entire home listings. Since revenue trends are best understood over time, we examined host revenue in San Francisco between March 15, 2015 and March 15, 2016.

Here is what we found:

  • 83% of host earnings in SF have come from guest stays in private and shared spaces, long-term stays lasting at least 30 days, short-term stays with hosts who have only one entire home listing, and stays at listings that are hotels.
  • The remaining 17% of host earnings came from short-term guest stays at entire home listings managed by hosts who had more than one such listing.
Source of Host Earnings Percent of Total Revenue, March 15, 2015 – March 15, 2016
Stays in Private Rooms & Shared Spaces 25%
Stays in entire home listings 58%
Short-term, where hosts had only one such listing 47%
That are traditional hotels who offer space on Airbnb 1%
Long-term stays 10%
Short-term, entire home listing stays with hosts managing more than one such listing at time 17%

It is instructive to examine how the revenue earned by these hosts with multiple listings has changed over time. For example, the 17% figure in the table above is a year-long average. In February of 2015, this figure was 21% of revenue earned and in February of 2016, the same figure had fallen to 15%.

We are initially focused on the 288 hosts who are responsible for 671 listings in San Francisco. These are hosts who may be using the platform to list more than one entire home short term rental listing. We want to take action if these are listings that could be impacting the availability of long term rental housing in the city. This chart provides more details about these hosts and their listings:

Hosts with one entire home listing and a listing available as a long-term rental 29
Hosts with two entire home listings shared on a short-term basis 210
Hosts with three entire home listings shared on a short-term basis 32
Hosts with four entire home listings shared on a short-term basis 11
Hosts with five entire home listings shared on a short-term basis 0
Hosts with six or more entire home listings shared on a short-term basis 6
Total 288

As a first step, and to encourage our San Francisco host community to share homes where they live, we are moving forward with a new approach for listings in San Francisco. The goal of this approach is to ensure that:

  • Hosts are permitted to share only one entire home listing on a short-term basis.
  • Hosts may continue sharing private rooms and shared spaces as they have previously.
  • Long-term rentals and traditional hospitality companies like boutique hotels and timeshares may continue to list multiple entire spaces on Airbnb.

This new approach builds on our work to remove listings offered by unwelcome commercial operators. In November, we announced the Airbnb Community Compact, which outlined our commitment to help provide policy solutions tailored to the needs of specific cities with historic housing challenges. Most recently, in January we removed nearly 100 listings from our platform in San Francisco. In June, 2015 we removed 92 listings and in September, 2015 we removed 26 listings. We believe these listings were offered by hosts who shared multiple listings or represented other unwelcomed commercial activity.

We intend to continue removing listings that we believe are offered by hosts with multiple entire home listings or are offered by unwelcome commercial operators.

We know we have more work to do and this effort is just a first step. Going forward, we will examine our broader community – including hosts with only one listing – and continue to develop more tools so we can help hosts share the homes in which they live, not homes that would otherwise be on the long-term rental market. We also know that many people want to share one entire-home listing, but want some extra help managing their space. To make it easier for people to share the home in which they live, we have tools that allow hosts to designate additional people to assist them with the management of their single listing.

Land use, housing and real estate policies and challenges in San Francisco are unique. This new approach is specifically designed for San Francisco and we will continually look at this program to make sure it’s working the way we intend.

We also intend to keep working with San Francisco leaders. Many hosts have been frustrated by the complicated and ever-changing registration process, particularly hosts who only occasionally share their space. We will continue to work with everyone to ensure the rules are clear, fair, and easy to follow.

This will be a learning experience. We aren’t perfect, but we are committed to learning and being a good partner with cities around the world to ensure short-term rentals do not impact the cost and availability of long-term housing.

The Airbnb Community in San Francisco:
Frequently Asked Questions

What does the room type of a listing mean?

When a host creates a listing, their listing is grouped into the following three room types:

  • Shared rooms
  • Private rooms
  • Entire homes/apartments

When you book a shared room, you share your bedroom and the entire space with other people. When you book a private room, you have a bedroom to yourself, but share some spaces with others. With an entire home/apartment, you have the whole space to yourself.

Is Airbnb taking housing off the market and making housing in San Francisco harder to find and more expensive?

We have heard from thousands of San Franciscans who have told us that Airbnb is the only way they can afford to stay in an expensive city. The approach we have outlined is intended to remove from our platform any entire home listings that are offered by hosts with multiple short-term entire home listings in San Francisco. This will help prevent the conversion of multiple entire homes into illegal hotels. We want to work to remove entire home listings from our community in San Francisco that might otherwise be on the long-term rental market.

Airbnb listings represent a fraction of the housing stock in San Francisco. Census estimates indicate that there are 31,686 vacant housing units in San Francisco. Many of the 671 listings that we are initially focused on are not vacant, but even if we assumed they are vacant, they would represent only 2.1% of all vacant units and 0.18% of all housing units in San Francisco.

Who are these hosts who are sharing their entire homes?

Some critics wrongly assume entire home listings have been converted into full-time rentals for tourists and are mostly offered by commercial operators and wrongly classify these as “unhosted” listings. In fact, many San Franciscans regularly travel for work or pleasure, and countless hosts share their home on Airbnb when they are away. While they may be out of town, these hosts work before, during and after their guests’ stay to personally connect with their guests and ensure they experience the best of what San Francisco has to offer.

Here are some examples of how some hosts might use Airbnb:

  • A contractor who lives in San Francisco, with clients and jobs around the State of California. When she travels for jobs out-of-town, she shares her apartment on Airbnb.
  • A family of teachers who often travel in the summer. While they are on vacation, they list their home on Airbnb. The money they earn makes San Francisco more affordable and helps them discover new destinations.
  • A young professional who lives and works in San Francisco. He lists his home on Airbnb and takes weekend trips when he gets a booking.

While home sharing isn’t new, sharing your home through a platform like Airbnb is. In a dynamic city like San Francisco, more and more people have obligations and plans that require them to travel on regular basis. Airbnb has succeeded in part because we help these families make the most efficient use of their home.

How will your new approach address shared spaces and private rooms? Is there a limit on the number of shared space or private room listings a host can have?

We continue to welcome hosts who share extra space and private rooms. If we are alerted to shared spaces or private rooms that appear to be operated by unwelcome commercial operators or do not reflect our vision for our community, we intend to continue to remove listings that we find objectionable.

Some hosts want to share the home in which they live, but ask a friend or family member to list their space on their behalf. How will they be affected by this new approach?

We know that many people want some extra help managing their space and hosts can use the tools we are developing to help with their single listing.

San Francisco law requires hosts receive a permit from The City. Why have so many hosts not received a permit?
Short Term Rental Registration

After the home sharing law was passed by the Board of Supervisors in late 2014, the Planning Department imposed a series of administrative requirements, many of which are not part of the law, that make following the rules difficult for many Airbnb hosts. The diagram above – created by Home Sharers of San Francisco – outlines the original process a host had to go through to register, even if they only rent out their home a few weeks out of the year. These rules applied even if a host wanted to share their space for a single weekend when a big event like the Super Bowl comes to town. And the complex rules and regulations could violate the privacy of San Franciscans and impact registration, particularly for tenants.

At the same time that some agencies like the new enforcement office are working to simplify the registration process, other agencies are adding new rules that make it increasingly difficult for home sharers to follow the rules. Just last month, one agency sent a notice to hosts who already met the requirement to register for a business license with another agency, that they may now need to pay taxes on items like their sheets, blankets, pots and pans. As assistance, hosts are given an 83+ page manual intended for big businesses and instructed to inventory all their belongings used by guests – even items like sheets, forks, knives and shampoo.

The most recent rule change has been a common occurrence throughout the last year since the home sharing law went into effect. While any new system needs time to work, the constant stream of amendments, new requirements and even a ballot fight have all contributed to making it harder for many San Franciscans to comply with the law. Regardless of the constant changing landscape, we have and will continue to work to help our host community register. These efforts include:

  • A sustained email campaign to encourage hosts to register.
  • Nine town hall meetings to explain the registration process.
  • In the months ahead, we will launch twice monthly direct mail campaigns to encourage hosts to register.
  • Ongoing social media advertising.

We also support the work being done by members of the home sharing community such as the Home Sharers of San Francisco which has offered monthly host registration information sessions.

The approach we outlined today is focused on hosts who offer multiple listings on the platform. We believe that this and other efforts will help ensure that hosts are sharing the place they call home. As the City’s rules and process continue to shift, the steps we are announcing today reflect a commitment to helping meet the policy goals we share with the City despite the frustrating complexity of the registration process and other new rules.

Are you implementing these rules in other cities?

As we said in the Compact, each city is unique and one size fits all approach will not work. We are taking this action in San Francisco to make good on the commitment we outlined in the Community Compact to help prevent short-term rentals from impacting the availability and cost of housing in cities that have had historic housing challenges. We are committed to treating every city personally and providing solutions that allow everyday people to share their homes so they can make ends meet while also addressing local concerns.

What is an “unwelcome commercial operator” and how do you identify them?

We regularly examine our community and we are alerted to unwelcome commercial activity by examining a series of factors including, but not limited to:

  • The number of listings controlled by a host.
  • The quality of the listing, as measured by the features and amenities provided by the host.
  • Guest reviews and the type of experience the host provides.

We are committed to ensuring Airbnb guests have unique, local experiences in San Francisco and our policy will be to remove listings offered by commercial operators who fail to provide the kinds of experiences our hosts and guests deserve.

What if a host tries to list space that has been removed by Airbnb?

If a host has listings removed from our community and then later attempts to re-list space in San Francisco on Airbnb, our policy is to suspend the host’s account while we review the matter. Repeat violators may be banned from our platform.

How will you be notifying hosts about this new approach?

We plan to personally contact hosts with more than one entire space listing that will be impacted by this new approach and investigate whether their hosting activity removes housing from the long-term rental market.

Will this change how you collect and remit taxes in San Francisco?

No. Since 2014, we have been collecting and remitting transient occupancy taxes on behalf of our hosts. This approach will not change that at all. In 2015 alone, we collected and remitted 14.5 million dollars to The City of San Francisco.

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