SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The fight over affordable housing in the Bay Area is now taking aim at people renting homes through Airbnb.
Cindy Wu, with the Chinatown Community Development Center, said, “We’re definitely seeing the pressures of short term rentals on Chinatown and in the neighborhoods right next to Chinatown.”
For a neighborhood that’s been relatively insulated from the collateral damage of the tech explosion – there are growing signs of change.
“Chinatown has always been a gateway for immigrants to come here. It has always had a cultural identity.”
These are the signs we’re talking about.
Annonymously posted flyers, with the names and faces of 12 people said to be renting out Chinatown homes through Airbnb, blaming them for “destroying affordable housing for immigrant, minority and low-income families.”
But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen social justice signs in San Francisco.
Back in the 1990s, it was the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project, but now the fight has landed in Chinatown.
Wu said, “We’re seeing that there is all this pressure to do short-term rental instead of using those buildings as housing for people.”
This is a neighborhood packed with older, often vulnerable residents, living in decidedly modest homes.
Forty percent of the housing stock in the neighborhood is single-room occupancy, and even that now comes with a steep price.
Wu said “SROs are going for $1,300 a month, which is incredible. Like I said, 8 foot by 10 foot room, shared bathroom, shared kitchen.”
Kris Kritscher, of Vital Tea Leaf, said, “I’d love to live in Chinatown. I work here, but I can’t afford it.”
For a Chinatown business like Vital Tea Leaf, the Airbnb issue presents a question: Sure, a few extra tourist dollars are always nice – but at what cost?
“Who is going to benefit more, the people coming in, or the people trying to stay in? Might be good for business, but bad for people,” Kritscher said.
Wu said that “if we lose this as a housing stock of last resort, a place where people can go when there’s nowhere else, then they can’t be in the city anymore.”
So while those new flyers are pointed and personal, so is the very issue that spawned them.
We’ve tried reaching out to the people identified on those flyers but have not received any response.
We should also note that the flyers do not cite any specific properties – or whether or not those properties are being rented in accordance with San Francisco law.