City Council on Tuesday heard a much-anticipated report from staff about the complex problem of short-term residential rentals.
The issue came to light following an anonymous complaint filed against a residential property owner who was renting out his home using the web service Airbnb. This led to a heavily-attended town hall meeting, where a large crowd of Raleigh residents turned out to support the room-rental concept.
As defined in the memorandum included with Tuesday’s agenda packet, “The ease at which a traveler can research and reserve a room online has increased the viability of these rentals. Over the course of the past few years, the popularity of a few websites makes listing, rental and occupancy of single-family homes extremely simple.”
At the city council meeting in December, councilors expressed their views surrounding this issue.
“The biggest abuse of this will come in our districts,” Councilor Odom said. “I’m totally against this.”
He was not alone in his criticism of the practice of short-term residential rentals. Other councilors made known that they did not like or condone the practice as well.
“We do see this in my district and other districts,” Councilor Weeks said. “We need to get a handle on this as soon as possible.”
After receiving feedback and guidance from city council, staff members researched the issue and looked at how other cities had handled the issue of short-term residential rentals across the nation. Impacts were identified, best practices generated, and recommendations issued.
Some of the causes of concern for the use of short-term residential rentals included increased traffic in the neighborhood, additional parked cars on the street in front of the property, presence of business in a district that does not permit it, increased activity on the property, and potential conflict with other regulations.
City attorney Thomas McCormick stated at the city council meeting in December that the problem is not about the use of technology to link the parties together to rent the room. He said that the problem concerns the violation of zoning regulations that do not permit business in those districts.
Under the Unified Development Ordinance, such activity is prohibited unless the property is located in historic district, historic landmark, or is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
But in the memorandum included in the agenda packet, there were opportunities listed that would allow these short-term residential rentals to continue operating. They include an increased amount of lodging space for travelers, a potential influx of income to property owners and potential additional tax revenue for the city.
Four best practices were identified by staff for the regulation of short-term residential rentals: two concerned changing or creating zoning codes to better regulate the short-term residential rentals; one makes a push for the establishment of a special permit; and the last requires the owner or agent of the short-term residential rentals to reside on the property.
On Tuesday, councilors expressed their willingness to engage with the public on the issue, calling it very complex and worthy of further discussion.
The item was referred to the Law and Public Safety committee, whose members are Councilors Baldwin, Odom, and Maiorano. Its next meeting is on February 10 at 4 p.m.