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Airbnb pulls plug on multi-listing hosts

In 30 days, nearly 1,500 SF listings could go

What else can Airbnb and its hometown of San Francisco throw at each other? How about an olive branch?

The STR site suddenly agreed to a new rule today: Starting November 1, Airbnb hosts in the city will only be able to let out one home at a time (according to the San Francisco Chronicle). Presumably, the company hopes this will cut back on demand for things like the 60-day cap introduced by Board of Supervisors president London Breed on Tuesday.

They’re introducing a one-host, one-home limit in New York too, which probably not coincidentally is another place where short term rentals are staring down the barrel of more regulation (at a state level, in that instance).

The data aggregate site Inside Airbnb estimates 8,665 SF homes on Airbnb, up from just over 7,000 a year ago. Of those, 2,906 belong to someone with at least one other listing in the city. "Hosts with multiple listings are unlikely to be living on the property," the site notes.

Which of course is what regulators worry about. The proverbial absentee landlord who vacates housing stock to profit off of visiting out-of-towners instead of local renters is almost a folk villain in modern San Francisco.

In theory, Airbnb doesn’t necessarily want anyone running de facto hotels through their site either; they like to style their hosts as everyday people turned entrepreneur on the side, letting out the spare room to help make ends meet.

So ostensibly we should see at least 1,450 or so fewer San Francisco Airbnb listings come November. Of course, it’s not hard to imagine workarounds: hosts could just migrate their extra homes to other STR sites, or set up "shell" accounts in the name of spouses, roommates, or other confederates (although this would run the risk of being caught out later, of course).

Still, if it snuffs out even a few scofflaw hotels and makes it harder for others, the city will probably appreciate the gesture. Whether it will affect lawmakers’ degree of sympathy toward the company while weighing additional regulations might be another matter.