Op-Ed: City of Raleigh could use short-term rentals to leverage tourism and slow gentrification

On affordable housing and gentrification in Raleigh, I certainly do not claim to have all the answers. But I would like to suggest that maybe I could help with at least one answer.

If you follow the controversial affordable housing debate in Raleigh, you know that a common refrain is that there is no one answer, but success will require a combination of many different answers and solutions.

In the meantime, if you recognize my name, it might be because you heard it during Raleigh’s six-year battle over legalizing short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb. Or you may have heard my name associated with the “Save Six” movement in Five Points a few years ago, which was started to prevent the destruction of six older homes that provided affordable housing for downtown tenants.

Regarding “Save Six”, I helped convince Hayes Barton Baptist Church, which owns the houses, to demolish as few houses as possible for their expansion project, and then designate which houses could be ” saved “as affordable. workforce housing for local teachers, health care workers and first responders.

On the Airbnb side, I was the first person in Raleigh cited to have a short term rental in my house. Rather than roll over when I got the quote requiring me to pay up to $ 500 per day for each day that I continued to rent the granny unit in my house, I continued to rent the room and j fought the town hall. And finally won.

I started renting the room on Airbnb in October 2014, and over the next five and a half years until the COVID shutdown began, this room has earned us almost $ 110,000 in revenue.

I also learned a lot of new business lessons, met a lot of great people, and learned how to be a great ambassador for the City of Raleigh to the people who have stayed with me.

One of the reasons I have always been such an enthusiastic promoter of short term rentals in Raleigh is that I have always believed that a platform like Airbnb can be leveraged to deliver additional value beyond money. For example, I think the Airbnb platform offers some great tools that could be used by a city like Raleigh to help fight affordable housing.

Take my house. Renting a room in my house as a short term rental paid off our mortgage in full each month. For over five years. It is affordable housing. And it was Airbnb that enabled us and many others in Raleigh to create their own affordable housing plans.

But what about people who are at risk of losing their homes due to gentrification or other financial reasons?

Could platforms like Airbnb also be used to help them turn their existing homes into affordable homes?

And just to add a curve: Could Airbnb also be used to help create new tourism and cultural awareness opportunities for the city of Raleigh?

If I was in charge, this is how I would do it all:

On the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau website, there is a page that lists over 50 “African American Heritage Attractions in Raleigh, NC” Have you ever heard of these sites? I have shown this web page to a lot of people, and their responses are almost always a total surprise.

Meanwhile, there is little correlation between the location of these sites and the location of most Airbnbs in Raleigh.

This, to me, means that there are two big missed opportunities:

• The first opportunity is for the City of Raleigh to jointly promote these heritage sites as a tourist destination with great educational opportunities and a positive social impact;

• The second option is to help at-risk residents and others in heritage site neighborhoods use their homes as short-term rentals.

The successful combination of these two efforts will help people stay at home, help preserve the historic culture of these neighborhoods, and provide those staying in short term rentals in these neighborhoods with a unique “visit and live” experience. Meanwhile, beyond providing those who offer places in their homes to visitors to Airbnb with income that can significantly lower their cost of housing and ensure they can stay in their homes, it will also teach them valuable skills. commercial.

Additionally, this plan helps the City of Raleigh address an aspect of affordable housing and gentrification, while bringing more tourism dollars to Raleigh. The success would also help the City of Raleigh to continue to position itself as a city of creative thinking, creative solutions and innovation.

Over the years, I’ve shared this idea with a lot of people, including former Mayor McFarlane and Councilor Corey Branch, to business people like Larry Larson of Larry’s Coffee. A lot of people have said, “Great idea! But no one raised a hand to help amplify the message. I even tried talking about this with some of Airbnb’s biggest opponents in Raleigh, former advisers Stef Mendell and Russ Stephenson, while they were still in office.

But that was then. Short-term rentals were still technically illegal in Raleigh. At the same time, the priorities of the city of Raleigh were very different. Today, short term rentals in the city of Raleigh are legal. And when it comes to affordable housing, according to Mayor Baldwin, “Housing affordability was the central issue in my campaign for the mayor last year, along with many of our council members. “

Could short-term rentals play a role in helping solve Raleigh’s gentrification and housing affordability issues?

What do you think, Raleigh? Is it worth a try?

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