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CoastLine: Short-Term Rentals Raising New Questions for Public Policy Makers

By Sanfranman59 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A historic home on Market Street in Wilmington, North Carolina

There is a growing movement around the country among municipalities to regulate short-term rentals.   And by that, we’re often talking about a single-family home frequently rented through a website such as Airbnb or VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) for a few days at a time. 

Some say this new cottage industry is forcing established hotels to compete for tourism dollars and it’s changing the quality of life in residential neighborhoods.  Others argue that the ability to rent out one’s home for a weekend here and there contributes to neighborhood and regional prosperity. 

There’s now an organized push in Wilmington to regulate short-term rentals – spearheaded by the neighborhood organization Residents of Old Wilmington.  The City is taking public input on the issue through an online surveywhich is open until April 1st .  

Find the survey here:  ONLINE SURVEY

From City of Wilmington Spokesman Dylan Lee: 

"Staff is currently compiling the responses from a March 17th public meeting and, once the survey is complete, will compile all of the responses and prepare a preliminary report that will go to City Council in May. Next steps in the process will be determined by City Council."


Salette Andrews is the creator of the North Carolina Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity – an advocacy group dedicated to legalizing and regulating private home rentals in a fair, reasonable, and equitable manner.  She opposes the recent efforts to limit short-term rentals in downtown Wilmington. 

Sylvia Kochler is the President of Residents of Old Wilmington, or ROW,a  neighborhood association in downtown Wilmington that is championing the effort to regulate short-term rentals within residential neighborhoods and facilitate the enforcement of the existing city codes.

Kathryn Thurston, Zoning Administrator, City of Wilmington

Additional email comments not included in the on-air edition due to time constraints:

Barbara Grossman: 

"I live at Wrightsville Beach, so I am accustomed to short term rentals, party houses, etc.  I feel it is the price I pay for living here.  Airbnb on the other hand carefully screens both owners and tenants they do business with.  And they screen much more rigorously than the rental agencies at the beach do.  I know this because I frequently rent from them. I am sure that the scare tactics  come from big businesses."

Mary Delmar: 
"I am commenting on this issue as a homeowner that has a short term rental on one side and a b&b that does events  on the other side.  I have seen short term renters coming in to party with no regard for us as homeowners.  One party was loud and when I asked them to quiet down and not block my shared driveway I was told that they paid good money to rent the house for a wedding and they will do whatever they want.
"...These short term rentals do nothing to increase the value of our homes.  Quite the contrary.    I called the legal department of the N.C. Real Estate Commission and asked them what we need to do if we list a house with the knowledge that there is a short term rental next door and in my case one on each side.   She said in her opinion that would be a material fact and must be disclosed.   Another agent called that same day and spoke to the Legal Department of the N.C. Real Estate Commission, spoke to a different person and he said exactly the same thing...

"Who would buy a property knowing that there is not a neighbor living next door but a short term rental where people are coming in and out all the time and in many cases here to party.  People buy into neighborhoods – not a home basically being used as a hotel.   That leaves investors as the people who would be interested in buying a house in order to use it as a short term rental.  From my many years of experience in the real estate business, I have never had an investor that was looking to spend a top dollar for an investment property.  Just the opposite."

Mike McGinty:

"I am a resident of the Historic Residential District and am against allowing short term rental businesses to operate in residential districts.
A few of the reasons:
-  Short term rentals undermine the bed and breakfast businesses which operate legally within the city.
-  It is difficult to understand how increasing the transient population will lead to a safer environment in our residential neighborhoods, particularly around schools or at night.
- It seems wrong to me that businesses break the law and then ask the law be changed to accommodate them."

"When I hear who belongs in the neighborhood and who doesn't, that frightens me. Is ROW suggesting the 7 night minimum is ok?  Their initial letter to the city suggested otherwise. I live in a multi-family with multiple VRBOs.  They are incredible neighbors and future residents of town.  It has been an incredible experience to date."

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.