Former Raleigh Councilor: Let's Move Forward on Short Term Rentals

After three years of meetings, attended by hundreds of people, with ideas and proposals debated over and over, I just have this to say: Enough is enough.

I’m talking about how long it has taken the Raleigh City Council to act on regulations for the short-term rental industry, better known as Airbnb and VRBO. More than three years ago, a complaint was filed against Five Points resident Gregg Stebben for renting out a room in a basement apartment on Airbnb. (In Raleigh, it’s not legal but the city has not enforced the rules while it considered new regulations.) ...

When we reached another stalemate last year, the City Council appointed a task force made up of citizens with different perspectives and backgrounds. The regulations they suggested were more stringent than I was comfortable with, but in the interest of compromise, I voted yes. Again, another 4-4 tie vote.

What is the problem with short-term rentals? Councilor Russ Stephenson says at every turn that he loves Airbnb and stays in short-term rentals whenever he travels. But he has a problem approving them here. Why? I have never heard a specific concern, only general comments about what could happen.

But let’s look at some data points. In a city of 460,000 people, Raleigh has just 400 hosts and there are only 28 listings for full house rentals. The city is the third largest market for Airbnb in North Carolina. Half of the hosts are over age 50 – a pretty responsible group, I dare say. And in the three years since Stebben was cited, there have been just 15 complaints – several legitimate and dealt with promptly, and at least one unfounded. What does this tell you? It tells me that we’re creating an issue that doesn’t exist.

Short-term rentals give the average homeowner the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and to leverage their greatest asset – their home. It provides options to people traveling here for work or play. ...

It’s time for the Raleigh City Council to embrace the sharing economy, let people use their homes to benefit them and our community, and to actually embrace our motto, which states, “We are a 21st century city of innovation.” It is also time to listen to the solutions brought forward by citizens after years of hard work. ...

The Short-term Rental Task Force came up with sensible rules and regulations. It’s time to approve them. Council members can always ask staff for a report in six months and then in a year, and add new rules or make adjustments if necessary. But this much is clear – it is time to act based on facts and data, and not with emotion and fear. We have a reputation as a progressive, forward-thinking community that embraces innovation and entrepreneurship. Let’s not jeopardize it.
— Mary-Ann Baldwin - Raleigh Magazine
Brent Woodcox