Kathe Latham’s OpEd © was February 23, 2023, in the Greensboro News & Record

The city of Greensboro is finally allowing public comment on short-term rentals, previously described as “tourist homes/bed and breakfasts.” Airbnbs will fall under the new regulations. On March 1, the Planning and Zoning Commission will meet to hear from the public, who have been kept in the dark until very recently. On March 21, the City Council will take final action on the proposal. Once new regulations are put into place, it will be close to impossible to change them.

Unfortunately, the city has been less than transparent about the process, heavily favoring the rights of wealthy investors of rental properties over residents who pay property taxes and live in established neighborhoods and who would be immediately affected by the amended guidelines.

For years the city has professed to prioritize affordable housing. The new regulations assert to balance the rights of property owners to use property as they desire while not infringing on the rights of adjacent property owners or to create undue burdens to the public. The city also claims it will ensure that the level of activity does not change the character of the property or negatively impact neighboring residences. They profess to “promote health, safety and general welfare.” People are also reading…

I’ve been following this process for the last five months, and I’m saddened to report that I’ve seen very little evidence that the city has any real concern for the rights of the communities immediately affected, nor in creating any sort of balance in the process. The so-called “stakeholders” group which was selected to rewrite the city’s “tourist homes/bed and breakfast” guidelines is heavily weighted with Airbnb operators, land-use attorneys, Realtors, Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC) members and city staff. Only two out of the 14 participants were community representatives. I question whether any homeowner who lives adjacent to an Airbnb was even considered to participate.

Greensboro’s new regulations would allow owners of Airbnbs to live in adjacent counties or hire an operator to manage their home. Management companies would make money by managing multiple homes with less and less attention paid to issues that can arise with vacationers who drink more, party more, park wherever they like and have no commitment to following the community’s rules.

The “hotel-ification” of entire neighborhoods does little to preserve neighborhood harmony or respect resident’s needs. While there is already a serious shortage of affordable housing in Greensboro, the Planning and Zoning Commission seems tone-deaf to the fact that this process will reduce the availability of affordable housing by increasing rent and the cost of buying a home.

Unfortunately, the trend in housing markets has become even more insidious as institutional investors are snapping up single-family homes and converting them into short-term rentals and Airbnbs. Lax rental laws in North Carolina make the state an ideal location for investment in short-term rentals. Airbnb regularly attempts to thwart local regulations in a predatory process that cannibalizes the rental-housing supply. The process only further drives up rental costs and home ownership especially for low-income people, city workers, teachers and restaurant and hotel workers who can no longer afford to live in the city they serve.

Housing security is linked to every aspect of social and economic well-being. For many, especially retired elders like myself on fixed incomes and low-wage workers, access to safe and affordable housing is essential. The ability to live in a neighborhood where people know and care for each other “promotes health, safety and general welfare.”

Having an Airbnb next door or down the street increases the level of intransigence and takes away our rights as property owners. It dramatically changes the character of our properties and communities. Would you seriously want to live next door to an Airbnb property, never knowing who is visiting? Seriously?

Affordable housing must take priority over the needs of the wealthy to have homes away from homes while vacationing. Most of us just want one home and a history and connection with our neighbors that creates a sense of community, peace of mind and safety.

Other citizens and cities around the country are fighting back in Asheville, New Buffalo, Mich., Virginia Beach, Va., Sedona, Ariz. and many more. Unfortunately, Greensboro is headed in the wrong direction.