The Raleigh City Council’s Safe, Vibrant, and Healthy Community Committee scrutinized draft rules for short-term rental services earlier this week that would allow homeowners to rent out their properties for up to 30 days with a permit. The committee set an annual fee at $172 for a whole house with a to-be-determined lower fee for individual rooms. 

These rules stand in contrast to the regulations enacted last year by the previous council, which banned whole-house rentals and made renting a room in your house all but impossible. Those rules were immediately overthrown by the new council when it took over in December, and enforcement of short-term rental regulations has been paused as the city drafted new rules. 

The original draft of the new rules included a stipulation that homeowners couldn’t rent out accessory dwelling units as short-term rentals, but the committee got rid of that. It also added a “three strikes you’re out” provision for people who violate the rules.  

Since 2015, the city has only processed 55 complaints stemming from Airbnb rentals, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. 

“I am happy to be looking at data to drive decisions instead of fear,” Baldwin said. “We have five years of data here, and there’s been on an average of 10 complaints a year. That’s pretty remarkable.” 

During public comment, former council member Stef Mendell, who helped spearhead the previous ban on whole-house rentals, noted concerns about“enclaves of zombie houses” that could ensue if investors scoop up properties to rent them out on Airbnb, arguing it could intensify the city’s affordability crisis and be disruptive to neighbors. 

“Zoning is about predictability, and if I buy a house in a residential neighborhood, I assume that residential activities are going to be happening there, not commercial activities,” Mendell said. “Let people who want to rent out whole houses, let them buy those whole houses in mixed-use districts, and then we don’t have a problem. It doesn’t hurt the neighbors.”

While those problems may exist in Asheville and Wilmington, Airbnb hasn’t affected affordability in Raleigh so far, Baldwin said. 

“We have spent way too much time and energy on an issue that is not a problem here,” Baldwin said. 

The draft rules passed 3–1, with council member David Cox as the dissenting vote. He argued that the city should cap the number of days a unit could be rented at 180 a year.   

“I’d love to support it, but I’d like to put the cap in place today because that’s what I hear from my constituents,” Cox said. 

The draft change will now go before the planning commission and then back to the city council for a public hearing before it can be enacted. Baldwin says that it will take at least two months. The city has been trying to figure out these regulations for almost six years.

Baldwin says the rules are similar to what was proposed the last time she was on the council.

“We’re ending up where we started, and hopefully the full council will pass it,” Baldwin said.

Here’s the draft rules before the council added the changes to the fee schedule and the allowance of ADU rentals:

Short-Term Rental Draft Rules by Leigh Tauss on Scribd

One reply on “Raleigh Committee Vets Airbnb Rules That Actually Seem Reasonable”

  1. Once again you slant your reporting to promote an agenda. I did not bring up the “zombie houses” issue — Council Member Buffkin did, but was quickly silenced by the Mayor and Mr. Martin. My concerns, and the concerns of many in the community, are not driven by fear and are not primarily about “complaints.” There are two very real concerns. The first is concern about investors buying up properties for short-term rentals, thereby taking them off the market for long-term Raleigh residents and exacerbating our existing housing shortage. The second is about turning residential neighborhoods into quasi-commercial zones (with the proliferation of “zombie” houses). Zoning is about predictability and for those who bought homes in residential neighborhoods, it is wrong to introduce quasi-hotels into their midst. We do allow whole house rentals in mixed use districts, so let folks buy in those zoning districts. And why in the world did they put themselves in these positions when they knew the issue was undecided and Council was just temporarily not enforcing the rules? The previous council had come up with a compromise after years of stagnation on the issue. We were planning to set a cap on whole house rentals to head off these concerns. But the majority on the current Council don’t like compromise. It’s their way or the highway. Now the Mayor is saying we can just backtrack and change the regulations if this becomes a problem. But it’s not easy to take away something once it’s been granted. Let’s be reasonable and compromise. Allow whole house rentals, but cap them at some reasonable number so that we preserve our housing stock for Raleigh residents and so that we maintain residential neighborhoods as residential neighborhoods.

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