Airbnb has always claimed it’s a benevolent part of the sharing economy, simply helping homeowners get a little extra vacation cash, rather than a parasite driving up long-term rental costs. To prove that it’s serious, the company has announced a crackdown in San Fransisco.
In a long statement posted on Saturday, Airbnb revealed the breakdown of rentals in the city over the last year. Entire-home listings offered by users who manage more than one property are generally frowned upon, since those are much more likely to be commercial operators, rather than homeowners looking for extra cash, or a vacation rental.
The data released by Airbnb indicates that the company has a problem, but not a giant one: short-term, entire-home listings from users with multiple listings made up 17 percent of Airbnb’s total revenue in SF last year. The company says it has identified 288 hosts managing 671 listings for “possible action”. It suspects those hosts may be “impacting the availability of long term rental housing in the city”.
Airbnb’s stated goal—to rid itself of “unwelcome commercial operators”—is certainly good, but the company has a bad history with this exact topic. Last year, in an effort to demonstrate its goodwill, the company let a few journalists look at its data for a short time in a closed environment, but was then later caught out cleaning up the data before showing it off.
With that in mind, it’s important to approach Airbnb’s latest move with a healthy dose of skepticism. To keep public opinion (and lawmakers) on its side, the company has to carefully curate a public image of it helping the housing shortage, not making things worse. But at the same time, more money is more listings, and Airbnb won’t want to lose any more revenue than it absolutely has to.