CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that there were 76,523 Airbnbs in Chapel Hill in 2018. There were 76,523 Airbnb rentals not individual units.
There are about 290 active short-term rentals from Airbnb and HomeAway in Chapel Hill, 185 of which, or about 63 percent, consist of the entire home. Their growing presence is making residents, public officials and developers wonder whether regulation should be on the horizon.
Laurie Paolicelli, the executive director of the Orange County Visitors Bureau, said the discussion about short-term rentals and the impacts it has on affordable housing is starting to creep into Orange County. She said the concerns are more with entire homes rather than attached bedrooms.
“Nationwide, what we find is that they include a number of issues for communities and Chapel Hill is no exception — increased home prices, reduction in workforce housing, and affordable housing stock and also a change in neighborhood’s complexion,” Paolicelli said. “For example, people by-in-large rather have neighbors rather than visitors turning over because they don’t really know the rules about the neighborhood in terms of speeding and parties and what not.”
Paolicelli said the chamber, along with several hotels, have formed a group to study this because there are no local regulations.
"There's a real concern about the health and safety for the visitors," she said. "This area tends to have a hyper-focus sensitivity on safety and well being."
Paolicelli said it’s tempting for owners to have short-term rentals because they can make more money and perhaps might need it to cover their own mortgages. Chapel Hill and Carrboro is a visitor market in high demand, so many people have the option to be Airbnb owners, she said.
There were 76,523 Airbnb rentals in Orange County in 2018, a 45 percent increase from 2017.
Mike Few is the owner of three Airbnbs. Two are in Carrboro, launched in September and January respectively, and one is in Chapel Hill, launched April 2017. It is a business for him, he said.