HIP Housing connects home seekers with people who have space to spare. The nonprofit is realizing its home providers are renting through Airbnb for more revenue. Brendan Bartholomew/Special to the S.F. Examiner.

Peninsula housing provider concerned over Airbnb impact on supply

A nonprofit on the front lines of San Mateo County’s housing crunch says it’s losing too much shared housing stock and too many housing providers to Airbnb.

But the vacation rental website might not have been aware of the conflict.

HIP Housing’s home-sharing program pairs “home seekers” — often the working poor who have been displaced due to rising rent costs — with “home providers,” who are in many cases senior citizens who need to rent out a spare room in order to make ends meet.

Kate Comfort Harr, HIP’s executive director, said the organization recently got a rude awakening when, for the first time, one of its home providers announced they would stop renting to HIP Housing clients and instead rent to short-term vacationers on Airbnb.

While that Daly City resident was the first home provider to admit they were leaving the program to seek higher revenue on Airbnb, Comfort Harr said many more potential home providers on the Peninsula are forsaking long-term tenants in order to become Airbnb hosts, and the impact on her organization’s clients has been significant.

“Every room is crucial right now,” Comfort Harr said. “Every guest cottage, every nanny’s quarters, every in-law unit is desperately needed to address our housing crisis.”

HIP Housing recently experienced another first when a home seeker reported that he needed the organization’s services because the room he had been living in was converted to an Airbnb rental, Comfort Harr noted.

San Francisco native John Nieder, who is 65 and disabled, said he “couldn’t get a straight answer” out of the master tenant when she asked him to vacate her Pacifica home. But later he found the room available to rent through Airbnb.

While Nieder had been paying $900 per month, an Airbnb search by the San Francisco Examiner revealed that the room appears to be currently priced at $75 per night and $2,100 per month, plus a cleaning fee and service charges.

Nieder said he had evidence the master tenant was giving a percentage of her Airbnb revenue to the property’s owner, with the understanding that no guest would be allowed to stay for more than 30 days and gain legal status as a tenant.

Some landlords have said their desire to avoid long-term tenants is an incentive to join Airbnb, and that decision is sometimes made after they have “horrible” experiences with permanent occupants.

One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he started managing a friend’s property on Airbnb after the property owner was financially exploited by two tenants, both of whom were sheltered by San Francisco’s strong tenant protection laws.

But with the exception of East Palo Alto, the cities of San Mateo County are virtually devoid of the tenant protections that some San Francisco property owners find so burdensome.

With no rent control and no just-cause eviction ordinance, Comfort Harr said the number of displaced home seekers coming to HIP Housing for help is far exceeding the number of home providers in the program.

Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty expressed a desire to learn more about the situation on the Peninsula, adding that the company is proud of its contributions to the Bay Area economy.AirBnBHIP Housinghome sharingPeninsulaSan Mateo County

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