The city of Raleigh is drawing closer to a final decision on whether to legalize Airbnb and other short-term home rental services.
Staff on Tuesday afternoon presented two ways to allow Raleigh residents to open rooms to paying strangers without fear of city zoning inspectors.
Scores of people currently post their Raleigh properties to Airbnb, though the city code forbids room rentals in most neighborhoods.
One option, as presented to the Law and Public Safety Committee, is to allow rentals in all residential areas and many mixed-use districts. Under the staff proposal, the city would restrict the rentals to just one bedroom per house, unless the homeowner got a special permit from the city.
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin and Councilman Wayne Maiorano generally liked the policy, but suggested a limit of two bedrooms after hearing users’ concerns. Hosts also could rent still more bedrooms by getting special-use permits from the Board of Adjustment, a process that requires the notification of neighbors.
A second option, which the committee did not endorse, would have required all hosts in residential districts to get special-use permits.
In all options, staff suggested that hosts register with the city, pay a fee between $15 and $50 and pay taxes. The proposal also would forbid hosts from renting bedrooms with their own kitchen facilities. Airbnb already has announced that it will collect taxes from users and pay them to the appropriate governments.
The issue has drawn plenty of public comment and attention, thanks in part to Airbnb’s efforts. The company has convened local users to tell their stories and employed a public-relations firm in its quest for local legalization. Even Tuesday’s late-afternoon committee meeting drew comment from about 10 local hosts.
“It’s not a lot of money, but it is significant,” said Tom Henderson, who has hosted about 100 guests on South Henderson Avenue over the last five years. Other speakers suggested that the service brings new visitors to the city.
Critics of the service say it hurts traditional bed-and-breakfasts and draws unwanted visitors and traffic to neighborhoods
Among the three members of the Law and Public Safety Committee, the most serious concern seemed to be that people would rent out entire homes.
“That’s the abuse of the system. It makes me flinch,” said Councilman John Odom. “We want people to be actually be there and take care of it.”
The Raleigh City Council will take up the issue at its second meeting in June. It likely will schedule a public hearing and a vote for a later date.