San Francisco citizens voted against Proposition F yesterday. If passed, the measure would have restricted short-term apartment rentals to 75 days a year. In particular, the measure would have been a huge impediment for companies like Airbnb, which helps consumers find and rent open rooms in homes and apartments. Airbnb, VRBO, and the like are a part of the emerging sharing economy that allows individuals to earn a little extra money to make ends meet.
Proponents of Prop F launched their campaign on the premise that short-term rentals would exacerbate the City’s housing shortage. Ironically, the shortage is largely a problem of the government’s own making. While the recent tech boom has spurred economic growth, San Franciscan’s NIMBYism (“Not In My Backyard”) and anti-development policies have caused housing prices to soar. Since more people have moved into San Francisco and the housing supply hasn’t increased, the cost of renting an apartment has soared. Single-bedroom apartments cost, on average, $4,000/month to rent. Just two years ago, the average rent for the same apartment was $2,800 a month.San Francisco has aggressively stifled development for decades. The city’s residents, however, argue that they are not practicing NIMBYism; rather, the residents argue they are practicing DTOCism (“Don’t Trash Our City”). In recent years, a number of developers have abandoned projects that would have added housing, commercial business, and public utilities. For example, in 2006, Google and EarthLink tried to provide free internet to the city. A number of its residents, however, opposed this arrangement because they were afraid that these corporations were going to zap their brains with radio waves, and the deal fell through. As projects are nixed, property owners continue to be barred from developing their land and poorer individuals must struggle to find increasingly scarce housing. Indeed, NIMBYism has contributed to younger and poorer San Franciscans to residing in unstable housing arrangements, such as living in warehouses.
In response to the housing shortfall, San Francisco has predictably resorted to more government and continued violations of people’s constitutional rights. For example, the city unconstitutionally attempted to require landlords who wanted to withdraw their property from the rental market to pay as much as $13,500 to their displaced tenants. PLF successfully challenged that law this year. Of course, the city tried to pass Prop F, which would have harmed both people’s property rights and economic liberty.
Why is San Francisco so attached to NIMBYism? The answer is unclear. Regardless of what their motives are, San Francisans need to end their senseless NIMBYism so that housing shortage can be alleviated and property rights and economic liberty can be protected.