News: CJ Exclusives

Raleigh Not Only City Considering Airbnb Crackdown

Town in Southern California foothills bans unregulated short-term rentals entirely

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

While residents wait on the Raleigh City Council to decide whether or not Airbnb-style services should be legal, local governments elsewhere in the U.S. are cracking down on the online-based home rental company.

Elected officials in the Southern California city of Ojai decided during a January council meeting to impose a citywide ban on vacation rentals of less than 30 days.

The vote was 5-0 in favor of the ban, and one councilwoman — Betsy Clapp — called the business “a model that undermines community zoning laws.”

“These seemingly harmless home-based hotels … impact school enrollment, housing stock, volunteerism, and community cohesion,” said Clapp, as reported by the Ventura County Star. “I’ve seen how they have turned neighbor against neighbor. They are not good for our town.”

Those comments mirror sentiments expressed last year by some Raleigh council members during a heated discussion over whether Airbnb and similar “short-term residential lodging” services should be legalized within city limits.

Airbnb, an online business allowing homeowners to rent rooms in their homes, operates like a bed and breakfast service — only with fewer regulations than most cities impose on short-term rental properties.

Raleigh Councilwoman Kay Crowder spoke against Airbnb in December 2014, when the discussion first surfaced, and has continued to voice her dissent, saying legalizing Airbnb could enhance economic inequality.

“What would happen is that all of a sudden we have a disconnect[ion] where we start to segregate people based on income and place,” Crowder said during a council meeting late last year. “We also have to [make] the consideration that property that is now rented to people at a reasonable price becomes — all of a sudden — very attractive to your rental business.”

The model is illegal under Raleigh’s zoning laws, but while the city continues talks about how it should, or shouldn’t, regulate those rentals, the city has chosen not to enforce the law aggressively, letting Airbnb users continue to operate.

Raleigh’s council has discussed multiple approaches to address Airbnb, from limiting short-term residential lodging permits to 30 days to requiring homeowners renting through Airbnb to have permanent “on-site managers” who would monitor vacation homes and rental spaces.

And while Raleigh continues considering legalization of Airbnb, Ojai residents said goodbye to those privileges as of Feb. 1, when the ban took effect.

“When government gets involved in the front end of these types of transactions, it serves little purpose except to limit liberty and violate the rights of property owners,” wrote Watchdog.org Reporter Eric Boehm in a recent article about widespread regulation of Airbnb and other home rental services. “There’s no need for the government to intervene in that relationship, until and unless there is a crime committed on the property or there is some other reason for the judicial system to get involved.”

The Raleigh Planning Commission’s Text Change Committee tentatively is scheduled to continue discussion of Airbnb regulations next week, according to Assistant Planning Administrator Eric Hodge.