The debate over short-term rentals in Raleigh has continued for a couple of years without a clear solution. Brent Woodcox is special counsel to the General Assembly and former co-chair of the city’s short-term rental task force. He created Share Raleigh, a political action committee focusing on the debate over short-term rentals. Woodcox sat down with CJ Associate Editor Lindsay Marchello to discuss his project and the future of short-term rentals in the city. The complete interview will appear in the October Carolina Journal.
Marchello: How did you get involved with the short-term rental debate?
Woodcox: I follow city issues pretty closely. and this one for me just struck a chord because of the nature of property rights and neighborhoods. I’ve bought three homes in the last five years … and so just the real estate market and what is happening in Raleigh is really interesting to me. I saw this issue and I thought, man there’s gotta be something that can be done. This isn’t as hard as it’s being made out to be. So the city decided to put forth a task force and we’ve been going on for about two years now. The city just can’t come up with any kind of response, so they put together a task force, and the mayor asked me to be a part of it.
When I got there I volunteered, questionably, to be one of the co-chairs … . We had about 12 meetings over the course of three or four months and we hammered out a proposal. There was a lot of disagreement about what the priorities should be, and there was agreement on what we need to get in an ordinance. Basically, that is something that makes Raleigh an open place and a place people want to visit and can enjoy the experience while they are here but doesn’t disrupt the character or integrity of our current neighborhoods. We put together as a task force an ordinance that did that and, unfortunately, there just wasn’t the political will to go forward with that with the current council. I’m a person who has been involved with elections on the state level but never in city elections before, but I thought, what can I do to make sure this issue isn’t forgotten, and the task force recommendations don’t get put aside. I thought, well I’ll start a political action committee and I can try and draw attention to this issue and make sure that candidates who are running take it seriously and they have a position, and the voters in Raleigh have a right to know what their position is, and hopefully we can help educate the voters on what they think.
Marchello: How does Share Raleigh work? How will it affect the council election?
Woodcox: Basically, we began by announcing we were there, we started building up a following, started reaching out to people who were already involved with the issue — fellow task force members, folks who had expressed support for short term rental legalization in Raleigh during this entire process, and building a social media following. Just trying to get people aware that this is something that is happening. People have a hard time paying attention to all that’s in politics, particularly local politics … so getting attention is difficult. That’s basically what we are trying to do is say this is an issue that’s out there, it’s unresolved at this point, and elections are coming up. Hopefully the new council, once it’s seated, will be able to resolve it. After we kind of announced ourselves, got organized, what we decided our goal was going to be was to send out a survey to all candidates who are running in this fall election featuring five questions on what their position is on short-term rentals and what they would do if they were elected on the issue, with the idea that we would take those surveys as well some friendly candidates -— I’ve had some candidates reach out and say this is what they think — and so we are going to try and make endorsements about three or four weeks before the election.
Marchello: Are you aware of people in other cities or states doing something similar?
Woodcox: I’ve done research trying to look into how other cities have dealt with this on problem areas that people bring up, like what happens if you get rentals that kind of take over an entire block or you have a situation where affordable housing stock in a city is starting to erode, so are these short-term rentals involved in that? I’ve just tried to look across, and there are active people in just about every city on both sides of the issue, but particularly I’ve seen a lot of support in places like Charleston where they’ve been dealing with an ordinance and trying to figure out which areas in the city are appropriate for short-term rentals and what regulations need to be in place. I know Wilmington is dealing with this as well. I’ve had people from other cities reach out to me and say, ‘Hey here’s what we are doing, any way we can help, we’d love to help you and love for you to help us.’ At this point I’m so focused on this election, I’m just trying to figure out how to get from here through Oct. 10 and, after that, hopefully what we learn we can share with others and we can partner together to make this a little broader.