Airbnb knows that city and state governments are eager to crack down on abuse of its home rentals for makeshift hotels, so it's taking action before it has no choice. As of November 1st, residential hosts are banned from offering multiple listings in both New York state and San Francisco -- you can't just buy up a string of apartments in the hope of turning a profit. At least in New York, it will also implement a three-strikes policy that permanently bans repeat offenders. It's not yet certain that Airbnb will institute similar rules in other areas, though it wouldn't be surprising if they spread elsewhere.
The effort comes just as New York's Governor Cuomo is expected to sign a bill that fines Airbnb hosts caught violating the law. Airbnb is also proposing its own rules for the state, such as collecting taxes itself (which could prevent cheating and send money toward affordable housing) and a "simple, streamlined" registration system that would make it easier to track and thwart offenders. The company points to its cooperation with Chicago on a registration system as an example of what could happen.
The efforts could go a long way toward reclaiming real estate and lowering rental rates for honest-to-goodness residents, but they aren't going to silence critics. Although Airbnb has taken down illegal listings and now agrees that hosts should only list one home, affordable housing advocates have asked why it took so long (and so much official pressure) to make that happen. Shouldn't it have already been aware of the consequences of letting hosts offer multiple listings? And why can't Airbnb deliver names of hosts with unregistered San Francisco listings, instead of suing the city to overturn the registration law? The voluntary policies are a start, but certainly not the end.