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Meeting seeks to open minds, and maybe doors, to online room rentals in Raleigh

Posted January 2, 2015

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— A website where homeowners can rent out rooms in their homes is trying to build support for its services in Raleigh in advance of an expected review of the industry by the City Council.

A community meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday at The Architect Bar & Social House, at 108½ E. Hargett St., will feature an Airbnb representative, local hosts and guests and some entrepreneurs. Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Raleigh City Council members have been invited to attend.

"I think this is a chance for Raleigh to lead," said Jeff Tippett, an Airbnb advocate. "We've positioned ourselves as a city of innovation, a city of technology."

Airbnb offers places to rent in more than 190 different countries. The site lists hundreds of rooms for rent in Raleigh, and many are nightly rentals in private homes – areas that aren't zoned for conducting business such as offering accommodations.

City officials last month ordered a man to stop renting out a room in his Five Points home through the website to allow zoning inspectors time to to review the practice and how other cities nationwide are addressing it.

The findings are expected to be presented to the City Council by early February.

"It's a zoning problem," Councilman John Odom said. "They're becoming a hotel, and we don't allow hotels in the middle of neighborhoods."

Advertising rooms for rent on the Internet is a creative use of technology, Tippett and others say.

"We want City Council members to hear from residents, hear from business leaders and let's have a conversation," Tippett said. "What I've heard from them is that they want to protect the residents of Raleigh, and we want the very same thing."

Odom said he wants more information about online rentals before taking a position on Airbnb operations in Raleigh.

"Let's make sure we get this right before we allow it to happen," he said. "This may be a test where we can actually put something in place that works."

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  • Barbara Bono Jan 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I am also not sure how they could make this one person stop renting his room as there are currently 415 places listed on the site for Raleigh!

  • Barbara Bono Jan 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I am not sure what the difference is if you choose to rent out a room in your house for a month, a year or a night as far as legality.

  • SaveEnergyMan Jan 2, 2015

    MS - Exactly right. This is why the city needs to address this. Rules and licenses are there for a reason - just like with taxis - to protect the public from unhealthy, dangerous, or unsafe situations. Maybe there is a middle ground, because there are two side to every problem.

  • mspiacere Jan 2, 2015

    What's the difference between operating an illegal rooming house and renting a room in a house through a private party?