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​Airbnb yanks 923 listings in San Francisco

The home rental company says hundreds of listings that violate its "One Host, One Home" policy are out of luck.

Pictured above are Airbnb (green) and hotel (purple) listings in San Francisco. Hotels tend to congregate in certain neighborhoods, while Airbnb rentals spread across the city.

Airbnb is cracking down on San Franciscans who rent out more than one home on its service.

The home rental company said Wednesday that it's wiped 923 San Francisco listings from its platform over the last year. The purge is part of Airbnb's "One Host, One Home" policy, which limits people to listing only one address on its site. The move comes at a time when Airbnb is working to smooth its relationship with city regulators.

"While we continue to identify and remove listings that do not reflect our vision for our community, we remain committed to working with leaders across the City to further progressive policies that protect public safety and affordable housing," Airbnb wrote in a report released to San Francisco lawmakers last week.

In just under a decade, Airbnb has gone from a small startup catering to couch surfers to having a massive online presence. It lists roughly 3 million homes for rent in more than 65,000 cities in 191 countries. The privately held company has raised more than $3 billion in investment funding, valuing it at $31 billion. To prove its worth, Airbnb needs to show investors it can play nice and hammer out legal issues with cities around the world.

When Airbnb first launched its service, regulators around the world didn't pay much attention to people renting out their homes and rooms on a short-term basis. But as Airbnb became more popular, city officials saw that some landlords were taking multiple homes off the market to capitalize on short-term rentals. Critics began to accuse Airbnb of contributing to rising rents and housing crunches.

At first, Airbnb tussled with city officials over regulations, but over the last year the company changed its tune. Airbnb entered negotiations with New Orleans and settled a lawsuit with New York, while also collaborating with London and Amsterdam to limit the number of days people could rent out their homes per calendar year.

Airbnb instituted its "One Host, One Home" policy in San Francisco in April 2016. Of the 923 listings the company has pulled, it says 317 were entire homes, 26 were private rooms and 580 were shared rooms. Airbnb said in its report these listings could either "impact long-term housing availability" or didn't provide the "best possible experience on our platform."

The "One Host, One Home" policy has a few exemptions. People are allowed to have more than one listing if they include long-term rentals, traditional bed and breakfasts, licensed hotels, in-law units or the home is being managed by a friend or family member. The company says 12 percent of all Airbnb rentals in San Francisco qualify under these exemptions.

Overall, Airbnb says, it has 10,200 listings in San Francisco, which are rented on an average of 57 nights per year. In a separate report, released Wednesday, about Airbnb's economic impact on San Francisco, the company said roughly 437,000 people stayed in Airbnb rentals in the city over the last year.

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

Airbnb still has its detractors, however. Share Better SF, a coalition of housing activists, landlords, hotel unions and trade groups, sent a letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Thursday saying that even though Airbnb's report shows the company is wiping listings from its site, thousands of "illegal short-term rentals" remain.

Under the current law, Airbnb hosts are required to register with the city. However, of the 10,200 listings Airbnb says it has in San Francisco, only 1,877 are registered, according to the Office of Short-Term Rentals.

"Airbnb would like us to focus on the listings it's dropped, rather than the thousands it retains," said Dale Carlson, co-founder of Share Better SF.

First published March 16, 5:36 p.m. PT.

Update, March 17 at 12:04 p.m.: Adds background information and comment from Share Better SF.

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