Short term home rentals such as those pioneered by Airbnb have become ubiquitous.

You can go just about anywhere in the world and find a place to rent from Airbnb, Vrbo or one of the other services.

Airbnb was founded in 2008, but in Greensboro “short term home rental” is not defined and there is no ordinance regulating renting out a room, house, townhome or condo for less than 30 days.

Currently, the Greensboro Planning Department is attempting to regulate this growing industry by using the ordinance governing tourist homes and bed and breakfasts, but the ordinance doesn’t fit, which has led to some contentious discussions at the Greensboro Board of Adjustments.

The City Council discussed having an ordinance to regulate “short term rentals” in March 2022 and had a second discussion at the work session on Thursday, Jan. 26.

If all goes according to plan, an ordinance will be implemented governing short term rentals in September 2023.  But, considering how long it has taken the city to get this far and the number of questions city councilmembers had about the proposed ordinance, it appears that may be optimistic.

When councilmembers were really getting into the weeds and nitpicking every aspect of the proposed ordinance, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “We’ve got them now.  This is how we are trying to figure out how to make it safer for the public.  Right now, it is completely unregulated.  We may have led the country in this because of the furniture market.  We’ve known people who for decades have been renting their houses out short term.  This is really just a safety issue.  We know that it is happening throughout the city.”

Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said that she wouldn’t vote for any ordinance that did not have spacing requirements like the ones that exist for group homes.  However, city staff raised questions about the legality of spacing requirements.

If city staff can get an ordinance to regulate short term rentals passed by the City Council, according to Planning Director Sue Schwartz, the city plans to hire an outside vendor to oversee the regulations for the city.  Schwartz explained that one advantage of having and outside vendor was that they monitored the Airbnb, Vrbo and other websites for dwelling units that don’t have permits.

Whatever shape the final ordinance takes, operators of short term rentals units will have to apply for a permit and meet whatever requirements the city sets.

City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said that fire inspections should be part of the permitting process and that was one suggestion that seemed to be well received.

The current schedule moving forward is to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on Wednesday, March 1 before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The City Council would then hold a public hearing on the ordinance at the Tuesday, March 21 meeting and, if the ordinance passes, there would be a six month education period with the ordinance implemented in September.