Will Legislation Provide Relief for San Francisco’s Housing Crisis?

San Francisco has become one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, but it is in a bit of a housing crisis. Affordability is out of the question for the city now and while some blame big tech companies setting up headquarters in the area, others blame home-sharing platforms like Airbnb. Wealth has poured into the Bay Area as the tech industry has flourished over the past few years, causing housing prices and the eviction rate to surge. The city has struggled to meet the demand for affordable housing, while some residents are forced to leave the city.

This Election Day, San Franciscans were asked to vote on several propositions that either directly or indirectly related to the technology industry and housing costs. The election, in a way, became a referendum on the city’s booming technology industry and a vehicle for voters to vent as they seethe over the sky-high housing prices that have come with it. “The ballot reflects the tension in San Francisco, where we all agree that there is a housing crisis,” said Scott Wiener, a member of the Board of Supervisors. “There are efforts to meaningfully address the crisis, and efforts to perpetuate bad policy that has gotten us into this crisis in the first place.”

Proposition F was one of those voted on, which would place restrictions on residents renting out their homes to short-term renters through companies like Airbnb. Although the proposition was ultimately voted down, backers argued that Airbnb rentals are pushing long-term renters out of the city. This shrink in inventory is driving up prices.

There’s no doubt that San Francisco is an expensive place to live. This was true before the recent technology boom. The city gets more unaffordable with each up cycle, and it is now nearly as expensive as Manhattan, with the typical San Francisco home being worth $1.1 million, up 60% from five years ago, according to Zillow.

Those who opposed Prop F felt that Airbnb rentals were not affecting affordability in the Bay area. “Prop F does absolutely nothing,” said Chris Lehane, a Washington political operative who was recently appointed Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs. “There is not a seriousness of purpose behind it, when it comes to actually substantively trying to address affordability.” Weary of the city’s staunchly pro-tenant laws, a number of San Francisco property owners now use Airbnb to make money from their vacant units without the hassle of full-time tenants.

Although Prop F failed to pass, supporters will continue to fight until it does. “No one on our side really believes we are going to prevail, but I think we have moved the argument in a significant way,” community organizer Calvin Welch said. “So the next time we put this on the ballot, and we’re looking to put it on the ballot next year, it will do very well.”

Do you think Proposition F would have alleviated some of San Francisco’s housing troubles? What do you think it will take for San Francisco to become more affordable for the middle class?

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