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Raleigh ranks 3rd for Airbnb guests in NC

Dennis Gugger uses his computer after work in August 2014 in Raleigh. Gugger and his roommate, Dexter Tillet, use the app Airbnb to rent their house to travelers. Once or twice a month the roommates will stay with family while guests pay to stay in their home.
Dennis Gugger uses his computer after work in August 2014 in Raleigh. Gugger and his roommate, Dexter Tillet, use the app Airbnb to rent their house to travelers. Once or twice a month the roommates will stay with family while guests pay to stay in their home. newsobserver.com

The number of people using Airbnb in North Carolina doubled between 2015 and 2016, generating a combined $51 million for hosts in the state last year, the company announced Thursday.

Airbnb, short for “air bed and breakfast,” said North Carolinians hosted 404,000 guests, “an astounding 118 percent year-over-year growth.” Its host community grew 83 percent to 7,500.

Airbnb in 2015 began collecting and remitting taxes on behalf of its North Carolina hosts, generating $7.7 million in tax revenue for the state in 2016, the company said.

Asheville led the state in Airbnb hosts and visits, followed by Charlotte and Raleigh. Asheville hosts welcomed 104,000 guests and earned $13.1 million, while Charlotte welcomed 33,700 guests and earned $4.5 million for its hosts.

Raleigh’s 400 Airbnb hosts earned a combined $2.4 million by renting their homes to 19,400 guests last year. Airbnb doesn’t have host income in Raleigh from 2015, said company spokeswoman Crystal Davis. But the number of hosts doubled to 400, as did the number of guests, to 18,000.

The capital city’s numbers trail comparable cities such as Austin and Richmond, Va., David said. Austin’s 7,100 hosts welcomed 321,000 guests, while Richmond’s 700 hosts accommodated 27,000 guests.

Durham and Chapel Hill ranked fifth and sixth in income in North Carolina, respectively. Durham’s Airbnb hosts welcomed 14,200 guests and earned a combined $2 million, while Chapel Hill residents hosted 8,100 guests and earned a combined $1.1 million.

Raleigh’s Airbnb hosts did business while the city’s years-long effort to regulate short-term residential rentals stagnated.

Raleigh has no regulations governing residents who rent out their properties for fewer than 30 days through services like Airbnb and VRBO, short for Vacation Rentals By Owner. Normally that would mean those activities would be prohibited, but the City Council in 2014 suspended all short-term rental-related enforcement until rules are in place.

But Raleigh leaders have struggled to agree on a set of rules that accommodate tourists and placate residents who worry that a free-flow of short-term rental guests will cause more traffic and noise in their neighborhoods.

Most recently, the City Council in October voted 4-4 on whether to allow Raleigh residents to rent out every room in their home. The vote marked the third time in less than a year that the council delayed action on the issue, so it launched a task force to talk to stakeholders, look at short-term rental practices in other cities and recommend a set of regulations sometime this year.

The task force has yet to draft a proposal for short-term rental regulations, according to Brent Woodcox, a co-chair of the group. “But we have made strong progress toward that goal,” Woodcox said. “The group’s hope is to accomplish that within the next 4 to 6 weeks.”

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said Thursday’s news shows why Raleigh should tread lightly when regulating short-term residential rentals.

“Short-term rentals give the average homeowner the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and to leverage their largest investment – their home,” Baldwin said. “In some instances, it’s income that allows them to stay in their homes.”

Airbnb reported Thursday that 45 percent of North Carolina hosts are older than 50.

“During our committee meetings, we hear from seniors who depend on the income to pay their taxes, and people who lost their jobs through disability or illness,” she continued. “It gives our citizens options.”

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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