Ugh. The 52-unit development that's nearly complete at the prominent flatiron corner of Church and Market, whose design was the subject of lengthy hems and haws by the neighborhood going back five years, isn't even going to be regular housing.
It won't be expensive condos, or standard market-rate rentals, or even affordable rentals — though eight units will become part of the Mayor's Office BMR lottery. Sonder, as it will be called, operated by this San Francisco-based outfit where former Airbnb CFO Laurence Tosi just joined the board, will offer short-term rentals with a minimum of 30-day stays, thereby skirting the city's short-term rental regulations.
Developer Brian Spiers tells Hoodline that he expects "most [of the leases] will probably end up being approximately six months to a year with the option to renew." But clearly Sonder is a business that is capitalizing on transience in today's American cities. The company's website has a hotel-style check-in module on its front page, listing the number of "guests" one will be arriving with. And the units will be fully furnished, in a property that provides "consistency and service of a great hotel," according to Sonder.
Sonder, which was founded in 2012, currently operates properties in Austin, Boston, Miami, New York City, London, and Rome, and as Business Insider reported this month, the company just closed a new Series D funding round of $210 million, bringing its total valuation to $1 billion. The company boasts 8,500 rentable spaces in 20 cities, up from just 2,200 units in 12 cities around this time last year.
Critics will of course carp that providing 30-day rentals is not doing anything to help the city's ongoing housing crisis, it is merely catering to high-paying tourists and transient tech workers who might otherwise find a corporate rental elsewhere.
The Nashville Business Journal, covering a newly announced Sonder property in that city, noted that the "Airbnb-style hotel" just landed "a block from [an] Amazon hub." We don't need to wonder who the audience is there. And all check-in and check-out is done via your phone, as are requests for towels and maid service.
Sonder already has staked a claim on scores of vacant units across the city. A quick search for availability on their site finds over 100 units available in San Francisco for 30-day stays between October and November, not including this Church Street property — and that was only a search for one-bedroom units. These appear to be renting for around $200-$250 per night.
But does this count against the mayor's housing construction goal? And how many of those units already for rent for a month at a time are counted against that goal?