Raleigh city council members don’t seem too worried about the area’s Airbnb rentals, which they say are well-regulated by a new permitting program put in place earlier this year

The city council heard a six-month update on the program Tuesday after which most members concluded short-term rentals are not contributing to the city’s housing shortage, nor disrupting residential neighborhoods. 

“This is not an issue,” said city council member Jonathan Melton. “I am not in favor of allocating more resources to enforcement for a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Melton and other newer city council members have long been in favor of short-term rentals. When the new city council was elected in 2019, one of the first things newly-elected members did was overturn the previous city council’s restrictive rules around Airbnb.

Five years of intense debate over the issue revealed many Raleigh residents were in favor of short-term rentals, saying they helped generate extra income or gave family members an affordable place to stay while visiting. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin attested to this fact Tuesday, saying she’d heard from voters, including a cancer survivor, who said short-term rentals helped them pay mortgages and stay in their homes. 

Furthermore, complaints regarding short-term rentals are few and far between. Since the new permitting program started in March, the city has received only one complaint, said Pat Young, director of Planning and Development Services. The landlord in question has since come into compliance.

Young noted the concerns of some Raleigh residents who were worried about the more than 400 short-term rentals listed on AirBnB and VRBO. Many of those listings, however, are actually located in the areas surrounding Raleigh, not within the city limits where officials have jurisdiction, he said.

In the six months since the program started, the city has received 193 requests for short-term rental permits, according to Young. Of those, 152 have been approved and 41 are in review. Most rentals, 63 percent, are located in single-family homes, while 34 percent are in multi-family buildings and 3 percent are in “accessory-dwelling units” like backyard cottages, also known as granny flats.

It’s possible some short-term rentals subject to Raleigh’s new rules are operating without a permit, Young said. The city enforces short-term rental rules on a “complaint basis,” meaning they don’t do regular inspections but instead look into any complaints they receive. Young said the city could hire a full-time employee to monitor the city’s short-term rentals, but Baldwin agreed with Melton that spending additional money was unnecessary. 

Councilmember David Cox, who has expressed skepticism about short term rentals in the past, asked if the city could find additional data to ensure they have an accurate idea of how many short-term rentals there are and how they may have impacted the city’s housing stock. Baldwin didn’t object to gathering more information but reiterated that she didn’t want to waste resources.

Melton said the city should continue to educate landlords about the city’s new rules and spread information about the permitting program. 

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Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to jgallup@indyweek.com.