Consider it a sign of the times that one the country’s largest accommodations companies — Airbnb — does not actually own any hotel rooms.
Airbnb, VRBO and others like them offer what are known as “short-term rentals” or STRs — privately owned apartments or homes for folks looking to come to town for a few days.
Greensboro City Council is considering a new ordinance that will regulate short-term rental properties in the city, of which there are approximately 500, according to CozyCozy.com, which lists short-term rentals from several companies.
More personal than a hotel, and with amenities like privacy, kitchens and multiple sleeping quarters, people love them. A short-term rental is a great option for families with young children, wonderful for big groups who don’t want to be spread over several floors in a hotel, or people with pets. And they are in neighborhoods, as opposed to business districts, giving a trip a homespun feel.
People also hate them. Sometimes the visitors throw loud parties or otherwise disrespect the neighborhoods. Worse, they eat up a city’s available rental stock, which in turn raises rents for city residents. In Asheville, New Orleans, Miami and other US cities, short-term rentals are having an outsized effect on housing, pushing residents out.
Greensboro’s proposed regulations seem fair, and to address most of the concerns people have: If adopted, STRs will only exist in residential units, and must have a zoning permit, which can be rescinded for violations. STRs would be able to host no more than two adults per bedroom, and no parties larger than double the occupancy rate. Property owners or operators would have to live in Guilford County or an adjacent county.
Very few municipalities have been successful in banning STRs — property owners have rights, and the courts have consistently ruled against making them illegal, but in North Carolina, they do allow for regulation.
Cities around the country are grappling with this dilemma, trying to balance the rights of property owners with the precarious nature of housing, which is becoming less affordable for working people every day. Asheville has banned whole-home rentals within city limits since 2018, but issues homestay permits to property owners who want to rent apartments or rooms in homes they live in. Wilmington placed a cap on the total number of STRs within the city in 2019, mandating that they be at least 400 feet apart. But these are tourist towns, with tourist-town problems.
Greensboro is not a tourist town in that way — most visitors are families coming to the city for youth sporting events, some as overflow from Furniture Market and a small percentage for entertainment, like shows at the Tanger Center or the Greensboro Coliseum, according to Henri Fourrier, president of Greensboro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. He added that tourism in Greensboro brought in $1.3 billion in 2022.
Council votes on the new regulations next week. Passing them would give the city its first mechanism of control over STRs, which is the only way to keep them in check.
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