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San Francisco street. Photo: Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Airbnb this week acquired Urbandoor, a company that provides "corporate rentals" for business travelers and new employees, typically rented for anywhere between a month to a year.

Why it matters: Airbnb, long-acquainted with tensions around home-sharing and short-term rentals, is now stepping into the latest housing controversy in its hometown of San Francisco.

The big picture: Furnished rentals for business travelers are nothing new. But local press reports that startup Sonder has inked a deal to operate most of the rental units in a new building in downtown San Francisco has brought the issue to the forefront.

What they're saying: Critics, including some San Francisco legislators, say that these companies are using a "loophole" in local regulations by having a minimum stay of 30 days to avoid the label of short-term rentals. At the same time, they're marketed as flexible and ideal for renters that only need housing for a few months.

  • “What we need is housing for people who will make San Francisco their home, who will enroll their children in our schools, who will become members of the community," San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen in a statement to the SF Examiner. "Instead, developers are taking advantage of our efforts to streamline and expedite construction, and what does it get us? Not housing, that’s what.”

The other side: The companies argue there's a need for this type of medium-term housing.

  • "Year-long leases aren’t for everyone, including many long-term residents," said a Sonder spokesman to Axios via email. "As society becomes increasingly mobile and demands more flexibility, we believe agreeing to live in one place for twelve months at a time will become a thing of the past entirely."
  • He added that the company only operates in new or adaptive reuse buildings in appropriately zoned neighborhoods.

An Airbnb spokesman told Axios that the company is committed to helping protect affordable housing. Zeus Living, another San Francisco-based corporate rentals startup, did not respond to a request for comment.

Quick take: There's a growing number of renters looking for unconventional lease terms. Case in point, this San Francisco-based reporter received multiple inquiries from people looking for housing for just a few months in response to a recent ad looking for a long-term roommate.

The bottom line: In cities with severe shortages, controversies around housing are deeply emotional and delicate, regardless of whether companies are following local laws.

Editor's note: The story has been updated to correct that Sonder will operate most of the new downtown SF building's units (not that most of the company's units are in that building).

Go deeper

Fed signals it could yank economic support quicker as inflation sticks around

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve will consider pulling back economic support sooner "as the threat of persistently high inflation has grown," chair Jerome Powell said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the biggest signal yet the Fed is backing away from its stance that soaring prices would be fleeting — a change that could shift its policies that underpin the economy.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 51 mins ago - Economy & Business

Crypto meets the real world

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The two largest countries in the world seem intent on effectively banning their citizens from participating in crypto, which poses a serious threat to the crypto agenda.

Why it matters: The crypto world is global — but the real world is fragmented into nation-states, each of which claims control of what happens within its borders.

Meadows cooperating with House Jan. 6 select committee

Mark Meadows. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, the panel said Tuesday.

Driving the news: Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel earlier this month, is believed to have insight into former President Trump's role in efforts to stop the certification of President Biden's election win.