On May 21st, the Raleigh City Council implemented rules pertaining to short term housing rentals (STR’s), which most commonly come in the form of AirBnB or VRBO. In short, the rules say:

  • Whole-house rentals are only allowed in mixed-use zoning
  • A full-time property resident must be present during the rental
  • A max of two adults are allowed, plus their minor children
  • Homeowners would be required to submit applications for “homestay permits”, which would likely need to include a general layout and proof of residency
  • All existing ADU’s (or ones created via the new ADU process) would be counted as whole-house rentals and would face the same restrictions
  • Violations of the ordinance could mean $500/day fines

Like most issues that appear before council, addressing short-term rentals requires a nuanced approach. It’s valid to say that allowing whole-house rentals by-right could have a negative effect on housing inventory. In cities where this has been allowed, it is not uncommon to see owners buy up houses simply for the purpose of short-term rentals. There are ways to combat this, including (at the most basic level) common sense regulation of the length of each stay. This requires, and deserves, further study. But instead of choosing to do so, Council rejected a motion by Councilwoman Stewart to further study the whole-house aspect of this ordinance. To the majority of council, this is just another binary issue. They are choosing to ignore the group that they convened to study this issue, despite their self-described commitment to citizen engagement. They are choosing to ignore the countless folks who have made their fear of renting a room (as opposed to a whole house) well known. Instead, they are relying on the voices of a few.

Council’s fear of STR’s and their effect on housing inventory rings pretty hollow. It’s a convenient excuse, even as they work to further prevent any kind of meaningful density. You can’t harbor a fear of a depleted housing inventory while at the same time actively working to keep it that way.

This was billed (much like the ADU decision) as a “compromise”. Again, this council views this issue like it does so many others: on or off, for or against, legal or illegal. In their view, both the ADU decision and the decision on STR’s allows them to say that both are allowed under city law, while ignoring the incredible hoops and onerous regulations citizens must go through to make it work. Compromise assumes concessions from both sides, arriving at a middle ground. Working together to find common ground is what we should demand, at the very least, from our municipal government. But we can’t mistake the ADU and STR decisions for this. Make no mistake, the only true concession made by the majority of council yesterday was the “approval” of an STR ordinance. Everything else was on their terms.

People are sick of hearing about STR’s, ADU’s, and scooters. I get that, believe me. But know that they are indicative of a larger problem: an aversion to anything new. I truly believe, despite my disagreement with a number of the council member’s votes yesterday, that all eight of them have the best intentions at heart. They love Raleigh, and want what’s best for our great city. What we have to realize is that what part of what has made us great is growth, advancement, and an embrace of new ideas. Our past has brought us all kinds of committed people and business, joining a rich history of long-time North Carolinans in the Capital City. It’s all of these things combined that has us on a truly awesome trajectory. Why would we stop that now? Some will say we are trying to destroy the single family neighborhood. Please do not believe that. I live in one and love it. No one is suggesting that we build a 12-story apartment complex next to your split-level ranch. I just want to see Raleigh continue on its path of progressive and thoughtful growth, welcoming businesses and families of all types. This requires a nuanced approach, and it’s that approach that I will bring to council.