The Raleigh City Council is looking to follow Asheville’s lead in handling homestays and short-term rentals. Proposed regulations were brought before the council Oct. 9.
The proposed rules include requiring a property owner to be on the premises while guests are staying at the property and prohibiting accessory dwelling units (such as garage apartments or “granny flats”) to be used as homestays. People would also be prohibited from renting their entire home.
Stef Mendell, a city council member, said the proposed rules have been referred to the Healthy Neighborhoods Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 23.
Raleigh has struggled to find an answer to the short-term rental question for more than two years. While short-term rentals like Airbnb are technically banned in Raleigh, the city hasn’t enforced the rules while regulations are worked out.
Meanwhile, Asheville has been facing its own challenges in enforcing its short-term rental regulations. As the Citizen-Times reports, an Asheville resident has racked up more than $1 million in fines for operating short-term rentals but has refused to pay. Reid Thompson has incurred $1,500 daily fines for two years, but the city has no way to collect. Asheville sued Thompson to make him pay. Thompson countersued.
Brent Woodcox, an attorney and member of the grass-roots group YIMBY Raleigh, said Asheville’s regulatory scheme is unenforceable. Woodcox has been a vocal proponent of allowing short-term rentals in Raleigh with reasonable regulations.
Woodcox said it was foolhardy for the Raleigh City Council to follow Asheville’s example.
“Last year, hosts in Asheville made $19.8 million,” Woodcox said. “There were 160,000 nightly stays and it was the most popular destination in North Carolina for users of Airbnb.”
In a memo from Raleigh city planners on short-term rentals, the industry has been blamed for disrupting the traditional lodging market. The memo outlines some pros and cons to this disruption, including holding short-term rentals responsible for increasing local rent prices.
“Airbnbs and other STR residences displaced units otherwise available for long-term rental, reducing available housing stock,” the memo reads. “It increases rents primarily by taking units off the market.”
Woodcox said there’s almost no evidence short-term rentals lead to rent increases.
“There have been some studies that have shown a minuscule effect that cannot be attributed directly to short-term rentals,” Woodcox said. “There is something along the lines of if you increase the number of short-term rentals by 10 percent then you might see about 0.1 percent increase in rent.”
The memo says short-term rentals affect neighborhood character, from increased noise to reduced parking availability. But the memo also says short-term rentals expand lodging options for travelers and provide new income opportunities for property owners.