Councilors Considering Draconian Rules Against Airbnb

...Short-term rentals are technically illegal in Raleigh, but city leaders agreed to not enforce the ban until new regulations could be put in place. But that was years ago and there are now hundreds of rooms and homes listed on websites like Airbnb and VRBO in Raleigh.

More than 42,000 people stayed at local Airbnbs in 2017, but the city has only received complaints about short-term rentals at 37 locations since 2014. Only 23 of those addresses could be substantiated. There may be more complaints, but Raleigh doesn’t track duplicate complaints for the same address.

The Raleigh City Council has discussed, convened task forces and voted on various rules throughout the years but it has never had enough votes to pass new regulations. A council committee took up the task this past week to hear from supporters and opponents of the short-term rentals and debate a new set of rules.

Some elected leaders wanted to end the Airbnb saga by year’s end, but the council committee won’t meet again until January. ...

In several ways, Raleigh’s new draft rules mirror those of Asheville, which bans short-term rentals across most of the city. One Asheville resident has more than $1 million in fines for illegal Airbnbs, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Under Raleigh’s proposed rules, only two bedrooms or guest rooms could be rented out and a resident would have to live at the house during the rental.

People who want to rent out their homes would pay a $208 fee and neighbors within 100 feet of the property would be notified, at the would-be operator’s expense. No kitchen appliances would be allowed in those rooms, but the rules could be amended to allow a coffee maker or mini-fridge. And guests would be limited to two adults, with only four adults allowed in the house, including people who live there.

But there are still several things the council committee and, eventually the council, must decide, including off-street parking, whether backyard cottages could be used, and whether adjacent properties could both get approval for short-term rentals.. Council leaders will also have to decide if permits should be issued on a first-come, first-served basis or by lottery. ...

Missing from the draft rules is the ability for people to rent out their entire home.

That’s an obvious sticking point for people who have rental properties solely for short-term rentals but also for potential guests who like staying in places without other people.

Steve Rehnborg, a frequent Airbnb customer, hates when he tries to get settled into a new place and someone tries to talk to him.

“I’m trying to do work because I’ve been traveling and all I want to do is stare at a wall, and now someone’s ‘Hey, how was your flight?Do you want breakfast? Do you want this? Do you want that?,” he said. “It’s less to me about should we do one bedroom versus two and the regulations around that.”

It’s more important, he said, to include whole-house rental rules.

One compromise that Mayor Nancy McFarlane has suggested is allowing people to rent out their entire home for a few weeks or months out of the year. But council member Stef Mendell wonders how such rules would be enforced. ...

Letting people rent one or two rooms out of their homes makes sense, Mendell said, but renting out an entire home concerns her.

“If you can rent your house for $1,000 per month or $1,000 per week, I think a lot of people are going to choose [to open an] Airbnb,” she said. “That leaves people searching for an affordable place squeezed out.”

But fans of short-term rentals argue they help property owners afford to stay in their homes. And they can be cheaper than staying in a traditional hotel.

“I have two young kids who are in daycare now and, frankly, [Airbnb] is a housing-affordability solution for our family,” said Mary Sell. “It provides the ability for us to meet expenses and pay for our kids to go to daycare.”

It was a similar situation for Cynthia Deis, who has three Airbnb listings. She was able to cut down the number of days and hours she worked and switch to a different job while making up the lost income through the rental properties. It also gives her more time to spend with aging family members and create relationships with guests who come to stay.

The typical Raleigh Airbnb host makes $5,000 a year. Her rentals were some of the first in the city. Now Raleigh has a majority — 640 — of Wake County’s 890 Airbnb hosts, according to the company. ...
— Anna Johnson - N&O
Brent Woodcox