For more than a year, city leaders and advisers have been crafting regulations that would allow homeowners to rent out rooms in their homes through popular services like Airbnb.
It’s currently illegal for homeowners to rent out rooms for less than a month, but city leaders have been working to legalize the practice since late 2014.
On May 3, the Raleigh City Council will consider a set of proposed regulations that the city’s planning commission endorsed Tuesday.
Unlike rules that the council shot down last November, the commission’s proposal limits both the number of rooms a homeowner can rent out and the number of homes in each neighborhood that can rent out rooms. The goal is to address concerns about rentals leading to traffic and noise.
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The commission’s proposal would limit the number of renters in each neighborhood by proposing a maximum of one renter every 400 feet. It would also limit residents to renting no more than two rooms to two people.
But despite the written proposal, commission members at the May 3 meeting will suggest that the City Council allow residents to rent out their entire home.
Planning commission chairman Steve Schuster echoed concerns of commissioners and two residents who said limiting rentals could hurt the city’s image.
Resident Gregg Stebben said limiting residential rentals would conflict with the city’s mission statement, which describes Raleigh as a “21st Century City of Innovation.” It also limits tourism travel to Raleigh for families on tight budgets, he said.
“Do we really want to make Raleigh less of a family-friendly city?” Stebben said. “Making the wrong decision here can have an impact on the economy of Raleigh.”
Justin Miller, a local tech CEO, said about a dozen of his employees used Airbnb to come to Raleigh and explore the city when he invited them for interviews.
“Why can’t we be the city that sets the precedent for these other cities to follow?” Miller said.
But Eric Hodge, a city planner, said allowing whole-house rentals would complicate the legalization process because property owners who want to rent their entire house would then have to zone their homes for commercial use. So Schuster and a majority of the commission endorsed the two-person, two-room limit because he said the City Council is more likely to approve it.
Three new members were elected to the eight-person City Council since it last considered short-term rental regulations. And two longstanding council members interviewed at City Hall on Tuesday seemed to have conflicting positions.
Councilman Bonner Gaylord said he doesn’t mind allowing renters to rent out their entire house. The rule prohibiting more than one host every 400 feet protects neighborhoods from too much traffic, he said, and renter limits are hard to enforce.
“How are you going to monitor how many people walk through the door?” Gaylord said.
Councilwoman Kay Crowder, meanwhile, favors a more guarded approach to legalizing Airbnb. She wants to limit room rentals and only allow hosts every 500 feet.
“I think if we start out small and see how it works – Where do we need to make changes? Where can we make it better? – that’s the better answer,” Crowder said. “And then we can work our way up.”