SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It’s an $18 billion industry in the United States and San Francisco is at the center of it. Short-term rental laws that were designed to preserve the city’s existing housing stock back in 2015 spurred growth for yet another tech disruptor.
Sites like Zeus, Nestpick, Sonder, Airbnb for Work and nearly a dozen others advertise the opportunity to “feel like you live in San Francisco.”
For tenants like Sara Weed, who actually do live in San Francisco, it has them worried about being squeezed out. She’s lived in a rent-controlled apartment for more than a decade on Powell Street where cable cars cross in front of her doorway, but now instead of knowing her neighbors, she sees strangers every couple of weeks.
“It’s very interesting because you look in there and it looks like a hotel,” Weed said.
For the people renting the room down the hall, that’s essentially what it is–her entire building used to be rent controlled apartments, but recently, her landlord, Veritas Investments, started renovating vacant units and turning them into corporate rentals.
Internal documents obtained by KPIX 5 show this was the company’s “game plan” all along. They’re looking for “small, cheap, and quick improvements” to convert rent controlled units to “temporary furnished rentals.”
“Corporate rentals take away from rent controlled units that should go to people like myself,” Weed said.
The sites abide by short term rental laws put in place in 2015 that forbid rentals of fewer than 30 days in second homes, or vacant properties. Short-term rental owners must register with the city and spend 275 nights a year in the unit where you host short-term rentals.
These sites have worked around that law by exclusively renting for more than 30 days. Usually, it’s large corporations picking up the expensive tab. Supervisor Aaron Peskin co-sponsored the 2015 law.
“Small property owners are not doing corporate rentals. This is a phenomenon of large corporate apartment owners,” Peskin said.
He plans to introduce a new ordinance this fall targeting corporate rentals. It would make it outright illegal to turn rent-controlled apartments into corporate rentals.
“So it’s not as if they cannot rent the units for lots of money, it’s just that they’re going to have to rent them to a real person and they will be subject to rent control,” Peskin said.
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