The city’s effort to regulate short-term home rental programs such as Airbnb hit a snag Tuesday, when Raleigh staff said proposed rules could open the door for more boarding houses.
The rules would allow Raleigh property owners to rent out rooms in their homes under certain conditions. The practice is currently prohibited, but some residents already use online services such as Airbnb – short for Air Bed and Breakfast – because Raleigh doesn’t enforce its ban.
City leaders want to allow services like Airbnb because they bring people to Raleigh and boost the economy, but officials want to regulate the practice so it doesn’t cause traffic problems or affect property values.
Raleigh staff and council members have been working on regulations for months, and the city’s resident-run Text Change Committee evaluated the latest proposal Tuesday.
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Committee members delayed any action on the proposal because it doesn’t distinguish short-term residential rentals from boarding houses, which they see as a potentially bigger disruption to neighborhoods.
While the uses are similar, committee members said they want to be able to regulate the two separately if possible.
Boarding houses can house up to six people, whereas homeowners that use Airbnb typically rent to a smaller number of people.
Airbnb users also tend to be more conscious of living conditions, because they want renters to give them a good review online, committee members said.
But the definitions of boarding houses and short-term renters, under established and proposed city rules, are so similar that Raleigh staff wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the two.
Like Airbnb hosts, boarding houses would be allowed to open in low-density residential neighborhoods where they’re currently prohibited.
“If you allow this as proposed, you’ve essentially allowed (boarding houses) in all districts,” said Eric Hodge, a senior Raleigh planner.
The city now has 13 boarding houses – most near N.C. State University, he said.
The committee asked city staff to find ways to differentiate between the two uses by the time the panel meets again on Sept. 15.
“It’s all about neighborhood impact,” said Eric Braun, committee chairman.
The committee may tweak other parts of the proposal, too.
It says property owners can rent out two bedrooms without seeking a special-use permit. But it also says property owners must acquire a special-use permit to rent out the entire dwelling – leaving it unclear as to what owners of one- or two-bedroom homes and apartments must do.