Since January 2021, the number of active short-term rentals in the Chapel Hill area has increased by about 40 percent.
In June 2021, the Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution regulating STRs such as Airbnb and VRBO within town limits. These regulations require zoning compliance permits, occupancy limits and parking restrictions. They also limit units that are only used for STRs to mixed-use and commercial zoning districts.
Dec. 23 was the deadline for all STRs to come into compliance with these resolutions, or they would have had to return to residential use or become long-term rental units. Despite these new regulations, the number of STRs continues to grow, with nine new Airbnbs opening in Chapel Hill in the last quarter of 2022.
There are 339 active STRs in the Town, according to the most recent information from AirDNA, which analyzes STR data. About 80 percent of these are entire home rentals and about 20 percent are private rooms.
The average daily rate is lowest in March at $146, highest in May at $183 and the median monthly revenue is lowest in January and highest in April. Occupancy rates are also lowest in January at 53 percent, and highest in July at 75 percent.
UNC senior Parisa Vahid used Airbnb to find a place to live during the spring and fall semesters in 2021.
“I started looking at Airbnb because it was during COVID, and I was moving back to Chapel Hill in the spring and did not have a place to stay,” Vahid said in a written statement.
She said she knew that subleasing would be difficult because of COVID-19, so a friend suggested that she look on Airbnb.
For the spring semester of 2021, Vahid signed a contract through Airbnb and received a long-term stay discount. In the fall of 2021, Vahid was able to sign a lease agreement with the host through Airbnb.
“Airbnb made a lot of sense because I would be able to pick specific dates that worked for me, and would not have to pay for times that I would not be in Chapel Hill,” Vahid said.
She said she was not able to pay rent over the summer and did not have to worry about subleasing while she was gone.
Emily Holt, the affordable housing development officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said Chapel Hill's affordable housing team is not aware of any specific data regarding the connection between STRs and housing affordability.
“We’ve generally heard from the affordable housing community through the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition that there is a lack of evidence showing that STRs have a negative impact on housing affordability here," Holt said in an email.
She said when it was discussed last spring, Chapel Hill Town Council members generally thought STRs might help with affordable housing as many Airbnb hosts explained that additional income helped pay mortgages.
Sarah Viñas, affordable housing and community connections director for the Town, indicated that affordable housing efforts are facing different challenges.
“I think generally what we see is insufficient supply of affordable housing in Chapel Hill,” she said. “It’s quite dramatic here locally.”
Vahid said she would recommend Airbnb to other students looking for a place to stay for one semester at a time, but that there are limitations to a longer stay, as long-term stays are typically more expensive than a traditional lease.
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